Most of you have never met me in person, so I need to start off by explaining that I’m a very expressive person. All those smiley faces in my tweets and blog comments? Completely true-to-life.
You’ll never see me take a bet to try to keep a straight face for more than five seconds. I would lose—big time.
All of that means I can’t lie to someone’s face to save my life. My expression would give me away, if only for my facial muscles twitching as I tried to control them.
Usually, my inability to lie during an in-person situation isn’t a issue. Most would consider that a positive personality trait.
But if we write fiction, we lie all the time, at least in written form. Red herrings are all about lying to the reader, leading them to believe “A” is important when they should have been focusing on “B.” We manipulate readers’ expectations with clever lines to foreshadow and yet conceal the truth.
Readers like that we lie to them. Stories that don’t mislead are called boring or predictable. Readers are disappointed when someone spoils the ending for them.
What happens when fiction meets the real world with book signings or interviews? We don’t want to give away plot twists, and we don’t want to reveal how a series will end.
So if a reader (or potential reader) asks about things we want to keep secret, how should we deal with it? If we get asked about our personal life and we don’t want to answer because of privacy or branding concerns, how can we respond without coming across as rude?
Do we have to lie? Just answer, “No comment”? Or what?
I fear I’ll be lucky if I can clamp my hands over my mouth fast enough to keep the secret. It’s a good thing I’m okay with “being a dork” as part of my author brand.
Yes, I know this shouldn’t be taking up some of my “worry” neurons in my brain, as I’m not published yet, but writers are known for their irrational fears. Besides, I’ve already run into this issue, as family members who have read my stories ask me questions about the sequels.
A part of me is thrilled that someone else is interested enough in my story and characters to want to know more. People I love and respect are excited about the world I created. That’s insanely cool.
But another part of me wants to have these conversations in the dark so I can hide my facial expression. Anytime they guess at some future story event, I’m sure I get the goofiest look on my face if they’re close to the truth.
How can we share and encourage readers’ excitement for our stories without spoiling the ending for them them? Am I the only one who worries about this?
If you worry about it too, great—we can all worry together. If you don’t, even better—anyone that level-headed might be able to give me some advice.
Have you shared your stories with others? Are you able to keep secrets about plots and characters? What do you do if someone asks questions you don’t want to answer?