Creating Plot Around a Good Fictional Lie
Lies are not good. The Bible says: Thou shalt not lie. Good advice.
Yet every one tells them.
“Your new hair cut is original.”
“That new color in your living room … it’s ah … Creative.”
They’re called white lies. We tell them so as not to hurt some one’s feelings.
Humorous stories are created around lies and the trouble they cause. The bigger lie, the bigger trouble, but in the end all is reveled and all turns out well.
Supper Heroes lie to protect their identity and their loved ones.
But some lies are truly bad. They cannot be taken back, undone or forgiven.
In fiction, a good lie makes for good plotline. A lie so large that there must be more lies, murder and betrayal, to protect the original lie, makes for great fiction.
This post is about the TV series Scandal and has spoilers. Even though I’m posting about a TV show, the principle is the same when writing a novel.
Lies create scandals. Scandals undo people’s lives and a plot is born.
Such a scandal, if uncovered, could ruin a character and possibly crumble their world. As the plot progresses, the danger must accelerate. As the fans get to know the characters better, they become invested and want characters to succeed.
Each level of danger within the plot plateaus and seems to settle, but something more dangerous pops up to bring a greater threat to the character. Fans stay attentive in the hopes of a happy ending.
Scandal does not begin the series with the big scandal; it starts with the small and personal then becomes larger, affecting the American political system, finally the scandal could not only turn American upside down, but would ripple repercussions around the world.
The writers start first by introducing us to the characters and their client’s personal problems.
The main character is Olivia Pope. She’s a fixer. Her clients are affluent public figures whose reputations and lives would be ruined if the truth was known.
Olivia is probably the most powerful person is Washington D.C., though few know her name outside the district.
She covers up and whitewashes peoples’ mistakes. We are impressed by her cleverness and the power she holds to save a client’s reputation. With one phone call, she can stop a forensic investigation or end a prosecutor’s trial. As Olivia covers up one personal lie after another and we think this is what the TV show is about, but no.
A good plot outline ups the stakes for the characters and makes things more difficult.
Olivia has her own scandal.
Sometimes the affluent just needs their image improved. That’s how Olivia and Presidential Candidate Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III meet.
He was losing the race. She helps him better present himself to the public, thereby improving his rating, and helping him to become the next president of the Untied States.
Now her and his political career is at stake.
Olivia is having an affair with the president of the United States.
She has quit her job and has started her own business as a fixer, but she is repeatedly pulled back into the White House where their relationship threatens to start up again. She tries to tell him no, but he won’t listen. Things get pretty messy, but that’s not THE scandal.
The lie becomes greater, and the plot more threatening for Olivia.
This scandal could disrupt the American government, the Stock Market, world politics, and world economy.
Olivia is a part of a small team of people who have lied and cheated to place Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III in the Oval Office. That’s treason. The penalty for treason is death, or life in prison. This is one scandal too big to be uncovered.
Funny thing, Fitzgerald doesn’t even want to be president any more. He wants to resign, divorce his wife, marry Olivia, and live happily ever after.
But his team, his most trusted friends, those he loves the most, continue to lie and cheat to keep him in office. He doesn’t even know what they’re doing. If he did, he would resign.
They say he’s a good man. He will save America and the world. But if one tries to build something good and honorable on a lie, the good and honorable will crumble under the rot of that lie.
And there’s the plot, the real scandal of Scandal is treason and it’s unraveling.
Those within the team are backstabbing and betraying each other, and Olivia is caught in the middle. People are beginning to uncover her affair and her treason. They are set to confront her with the truth.
For a season and a half, we have come to know Olivia Pope. She’s done some questionable things, but she does it to save good people. Her whole business is set on covering up one lie after another. And she’s good at it.
The only part of her life she can’t control is her love for a man she can’t have. She quit her job at the White House and has tried to stay out of his life, but she is continually pulled back in to fix his problems and scandals.
Then just when it looks like they are done and have gone their separate ways, she’s pulled back in and the plot becomes even more complicated. The stakes are raised again. Things become even more dangerous.
A good plot continues to weave and tangle the characters into a corner. Everything they have built, their friends and family, could dissolve into nothing. Their lives are a stake.
Fans want to see how cleaver the character is. They want to know what brilliant plan they will they come up with to save themselves? If they are not able to do so, who will come to their rescue?
As the lies in Scandal become larger. The plot increases intensity. The story becomes more intriguing.
The problems start small, but things become more threatening for Olivia. Her livelihood and live is in danger. Olivia is the fixer. She’s good at it. But when she’s in trouble who fixes her?
I don’t recommend lying to friends or family.
But tell a good lie to your fans; create a sandal too large to hold together; your fans will love you for it.