- They, often rightfully, assume that the liar must be lying.
- Some outside detail, usually the most minor one possible, pokes a hole in the lie.
- The liar comes clean.
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Anime and Manga
- Kanade Suzutsuki from Mayo Chiki! is a master of this trope.
- When Kureha, the sister of main character Jiro, asks about Kanade's butler Subaru being a guy or girl (because she had seen a "cross-dressing" Subaru with Jiro in the previous episode), she tells Kureha that Subaru is in fact a boy, and that she's dating Jiro, much to his surprise. Kureha immediately falls for both lies.
- Later, in episode 7, while Subaru is on the beach in a bikini, Kureha runs into her, and initially thinks its Subaru (which she is). Kanade immediately points out that it's obviously a girl, and that said girl is Subaru's "cousin", Punyuru. Kureha once again falls for the lie.
- At the end of episode 7, Nagare, Subaru's father and the butler for Kanade's dad, shows up at the beach to bring them home. At first both girls are a bit scared by his presence, but then immediately start questioning each other if they know who that guy is. Despite his pleas, both girls make it seem like he's really just a perverted stalker, and everyone immediately buys it. Cue Nagare looking confused as to why his daughter is doing this (mostly to keep him from blowing her cover since she can't be butler if anyone finds out she's not really a guy).
- Kanade's lies are a little less effective on Usami however. When she tries to tell Usami about running away with Jiro to marry him on the beach, Usami sees right through it. Luckily Subaru approaches and overhears something which causes her to run away, prompting Jiro to chase after her. Usami tries to follow but Kanade stops her, and asks where she's spending the night at.
- The Idolmaster - The Producer (helped by Haruka) to Makoto when she's having a fit for being recognized as a Prince instead of a Princess.
- In Anatolia Story, Yuri, Kail, and their True Companions are generally good at coming up with cover stories on the fly, usually to explain what they're doing poking around in various city-states when they're preparing for some conquest.
- Azumanga Daioh: When Mayaa (a very rare Iriomote cat) collapses exhausted in front of Chiyo and Sakaki, they take him to the vet. When he asks what kind it is, Sakaki instantly says (to Chiyo's shock) it's a mixed breed, since Iriomotes are endangered and no-one would buy that Mayaa (the only cat that doesn't attack Sakaki on sight) followed her home.
- In the Death Note fanfic Fever Dreams Light comes up with an elaborate one when cornered- he claims he was coerced into working for Kira and then betrayed him and though he conveniently can't go into details, he has now backed Kira into a corner so he can't kill anymore. L finds to his annoyance that he can't disprove it and the taskforce (though wary upon realizing that Light really is that manipulative) becomes convinced of his innocence and some even begin to see Light as a hero.
- In The Darkness Series when Harry Potter is caught out in another lie he tells his "friends" that he had no choice but to lie and keep secrets from them because Dumbledore can read their thoughts and is probably controlling them. They all buy it, hook, line, and sinker.
- In Kazekoshi Buchou Monogatari, a Saki fan doujin about if Hisa had attended Kazekoshi, Hisa walks in on Coach Kubo berating Bundou for being late. Hisa says she was late because of work for the student council (which is presumably true), then apologizes for Bundou, saying she asked Bundou to help her with something for the student council and telling Bundou that she should have told the coach. The coach grudgingly accepts this, and Bundou thanks Hisa, but then it's revealed that Hisa made it up to get Bundou off the hook.
- A huge feature in Divided Rainbow, although in its case, it's not so much lies as False Memories.
- In The Non-Bronyverse Alternate Universe Fic TD's Little Rarity, TD's old roommate Ben hears a voice coming from TD's bedroom, the voice coming from the filly Rarity TD found in a box in his room (this is My Little Dashie we're talking about here). His conclusion? TD's a brony. TD plays along with it to get him out of his hair, and due to him actually have been in Equestria before it's quite believable (at least until the crystal ponies come into the discussion).
- This is brilliantly used in The Usual Suspects. At the end we find out that the story told by Verbal Kint was based on names and phrases he read from objects in the room where he is interrogated. We never find out how much of it was actually true.
- In Moulin Rouge!, Christian and Satine, caught in flagrante delicto, lie to the Duke that they are rehearsing a play. Within minutes, the rest of the main cast show up (they were spying on our heroes but couldn't hear what was being said) and fall without hesitation into the pretense that it's a rehearsal, including making up the plot of their new play on the spot.
- In Reservoir Dogs, there's a long sequence in which The Mole, Mr. Orange practices a fictional anecdote to tell to the other thieves to convince them that he's a legitimate criminal. His police contact tells him that he needs to get used to filling in details to the story as necessary so that it withstands scrutiny. When he finally tells the anecdote, he fields several off-script questions from the thieves, delivering the answers flawlessly and then seamlessly resuming his performance.
- 12 Years a Slave has a scene where Epps confronts Solomon about information he received from Armsby that Solomon hired him to deliver a letter to his family in New York and assist in securing his freedom. Solomon makes up a lie on the spot and convinces Epps that Armsby was the liar, trying to curry favor and get hired as an overseer.
- Which is completely true, except for the fact that Armsby was telling the truth.
- Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie is centered on the murder of an American businessman on a train. As Poirot interrogates the passengers of the train. In the end, we find out that everyone on the train was a part of the murder. They had to make up several lies to throw him off their trail. This was something like a dozen people. That kept up a lie under the scrutiny of Poirot. On a train in the middle of the Alps.
- Specifically, they made two lies. They were supposed to have the entire train car except the victim, so presumably were just going to murder the guy and then act normal, until Poirot replaced one of the conspirators in the train car, at which point they had to act out several hours of pantomime in front of him to frame someone who didn't exist.
- And then an unforeseen snowstorm meant it was obvious that the imaginary person they invented couldn't have left the train car, so that person had to be a passenger, so they have to scramble to rewrite their entire story, on the fly, to deliberately frame several of them, reasoning it was better for a few to go down then all of them.
- A Song of Ice and Fire features so many talented Manipulative Bastards playing Xanatos Speed Chess that this happens quite frequently.
- Sansa tells Tyrion that she doesn't want to stay in the part of the castle he has chosen because her father's men were all killed there, (the real reason being that it would interfere with her escape plans). Tyrion, who is quite a Guile Hero Magnificent Bastard in his own right, accepts this (very reasonable) explanation immediately, perhaps Foreshadowing that Sansa might not be totally out of her depth in this Crapsack World after all.
- Petyr Baelish tells Catelyn that the dagger used in a murder attempt was his dagger that he lost in a bet to Tyrion Lannister. We learn later that Petyr improvised the story on the spot and had no pre-determined plans on how he would benefit from the story. He simply wanted to cause discord, which would create opportunities further down the road. The dagger was actually Robert Baratheon's and was stolen by Joffrey.
- His story does alert Tyrion and Jaime to the fact that he's plotting against them (and not just mistaken), since it only works if you accept that Tyrion bet against Jaime, and Tyrion never bets against Jaime. It's amazing, however, how little mileage Tyrion gets from Catelyn with his, "Hey, I didn't try to murder your son! I think the guy who tried to kill him by shoving him out a window is so awesome that I would never do anything against him!" story.
- Anne Fine's book The Tulip Touch has this as one of Tulip's most notable characteristics. Being an abused child who craves attention, she frequently makes up implausible stories, but does it very well; the book's title refers to her habit of putting in that one little detail that always makes one wonder if she might be telling the truth just this once. She also fits this trope, because even when she is challenged, she is able to make up another, surprisingly plausible, explanation for the inconsistency.
- In Zeroes, this is one of the applications of Scam's superpower, a Voice which says whatever it has to in order to get what he desires. It helps that the Voice has knowledge of all the relevant details and facts necessary to make the lie believable, even if it's information Scam himself has no way of knowing.
- A frequent tool of Scrubs.
J.D.'s Narration: Now you're gonna lie here. Don't be too specific!J.D.: Since 1:42 yesterday afternoon. His wife did not want him to do it. She's beautiful, by the way - one green eye, one blue. She's from Luxembourg. They're both from Luxembourg. I believe they're, uh, Luxem... bourgian.Dr. Cox: Where in Luxembourg? I spent two weeks there.J.D.'s Narration: What are the odds? Just stay vague.J.D.: Uh, outside Mertert, near the German border.Dr. Cox: Ah.J.D.: They say what they miss most are those lazy summer afternoons on the Moselle River.J.D.'s Narration: You are channeling that seventh grade book report!
- One episode had a "seamless collaborative guy lie", to cover up their original one word lie being pulled. And it would've worked, too, if it weren't for Turk's meddling ass.
- "My First Kill":
Carla: Are you wearing boxers?J.D.: Yes, I am, Carla, because I know when Turk's sad, he likes me to come over in my boxers because he likes to call me his Honky Adonis, and that's what friends do.[Elliot and Carla look at each other and shrug.]J.D.'s Narration: They bought it? Are we that gay?
- "My Intern's Eyes", after Carla catches J.D. sneaking around the apartment he's no longer supposed to be living in:
- On Arrested Development, Lucille uses a lie like this to cover up the fact that her children's Nana died, and she's been keeping the inheritance money they want for herself. By this point in their lives, the kids know not to believe her. This just makes Lindsay try even harder to find out what happened in order to get the money.
- Barney from How I Met Your Mother sums this up pretty well: "If someone questions you, distract them from the original lie with more lies."
Barney: Here, let me demonstrate: I own a pony. Ask me a question.Marshall: Okay. Um, what color is your pony?Barney: Well, when I first got Dandelion she was a deep, chestnut brown, but, sadly, her stable is located near a chemical plant which contaminated the drinking water. So, over time, she's turned a sickly, grayish-white color and there's nothing the vet can do to fix her.Marshall: My God, I'm . . . that's horrible! Is Dandelion going to be okay? (beat) Okay, all right, you are good. Dandelion's not even sick, is she?
- Robin also came up with a series of believable lies when Ted tried to test whether she had actually been married at a mall (to explain her aversion to malls). While she came up with fairly believable answers about the food, the wedding cake and the band, she tripped herself up when she couldn't remember the name of her non-existent husband.
- Breaking Bad.
- When Skyler suddenly needs to justify the large amount of cash her husband Walter earned from making meth, she spins a tale about Walt gambling that also explains the falling out they had. It's so good that Walter himself begins to listen in awe.
- Walter does this fairly frequently as well. It starts out as clumsily handled Multitasked Conversations, but becomes increasingly complex. In fact, when he asks Skyler how she'd managed to pull off such a convincing lie off the top of her head, she says she learned from him.
- On Unforgettable, a murder suspect being interrogated by the cops realizes that they have discovered that the murder scene was staged, so he has to come up with a new story to distract the detectives. He uses the "take names from the bulletin board" technique to tell a believable story, and the detectives spend a fair chunk of time chasing this red herring.
- George on Seinfeld is usually terrible at lying, but he does have one shining moment when he sneaks an IQ test to supposed genius Elaine to take for him, then has to explain the food stains she got on it by concocting an elaborate story about how he went out the window to get some snacks.
- For a character who is well known for being not very smart, Joey from Friends has managed to do this remarkably well on a few occasions.
Chandler: Monica and I are having a little financial trouble.Joey: Yeah, I know.Chandler: What? What do you mean, you know?Joey: Uh, I just figured it out. You know, I mean, you're not working, and the economy is bad.Chandler: Oh, right.Joey:: [to himself] That is the fastest I have ever thought!Chandler: Anyway, uh, I need to borrow some money.Joey: Oh, sure, yeah. How much? Two thousand dollars?Chandler: Yes, two thousand dollars exactly. How did you know?Joey: Well, I know how much you used to make, and I know how much your rent is.Chandler: Oh. Okay.Joey:: [to himself] I am on fire!
- One is when he manages to completely flip Chandler and Monica's lie that he is a sex addict in an attempt to cover up their affair, telling a tale close to the truth, that he slept with Monica and that now she's obsessed with him.
- Another is when Monica asks Joey for a loan and asks him to keep it secret from Chandler, after which Chandler then asks him for a loan, which Joey can't refuse without revealing his loan to Monica.
- Merlin: Gwen gets REALLY good at this after being brainwashed by Morgana in season 5. After leaving Merlin for dead in the woods, she excuses his absence by claiming he went off to visit a girl. Later, when Percival catches her sneaking out of the castle, she makes up a heartwarming excuse about missing the old town and going there to think about her late brother.
- This is Sophie's job in Leverage. Nate is okay with this, Parker can't do it, and Hardison goes way too far when he does it...but Sophie...it's Sophie's life.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- Garak lies so often and so convincingly that an aversion is noteworthy enough to be lampshaded.
Odo: He's telling the truth, Captain. He doesn't know.Sisko: What makes you so sure?Odo: Because if he did know, he would even now be weaving an elaborate web of lies to conceal the truth.
- In another episode, Garak has Worf completely convinced until Garak chooses to expose the deception with a punchline.
Worf: Then why the elaborate deception?Garak: Because lying is a skill like any other, and if you want to maintain a level of excellence, you must practice constantly.
- Garak lies so often and so convincingly that an aversion is noteworthy enough to be lampshaded.
- Malcolm in the Middle: In the episode "Pearl Harbor," Malcolm and Reese need to get back at Jessica for making them both think the other was gay, so Reese gives Malcolm a hickey and Malcolm fervently denies it when his mother thinks Jessica did it. Lois takes Jessica into her room to give her a talk, and Jessica breaks down and says that she only did it to keep Malcolm away from a troubled druggie girl, and it was all just a big mistake. Lois sees through the whole thing—and every other lie in the episode—but congratulates her on the excellent improv.
- Person of Interest has Reese along with several assassins in the custody of the FBI which tries to find out who among them is The Man In The Suit. He spins a reasonably good story that goes into Tear Jerker territory because it's basically the path his life would have taken if he hadn't gone to the CIA after 9/11. Of course, he has the massive advantage that his direct interrogator is Carter and the interrogation is surveiled by Finch who spends enormous amounts of resources and hacks to turn all of his stories into verifiable facts in real time.
- Neil Simon's Rumors has a ridiculous one at the end. Lenny (who's been posing as an incapacitated friend) suddenly pops up to explain to the police what happened to get them off their backs. This monologue goes on for about four pages, all making a reasonable amount of sense. It seems like he made this up on the spot, much to everyone else's shock. He did — but it turns out that it may have been true after all, to his own shock and everyone else's.
- Very common in Ace Attorney, where characters who are caught out on their lies often come up with entirely different, equally detailed stories within very little time. Of course, due to the nature of the game, these are always found out eventually.
- Probably the best example is Luke Atmey from the third game. For the last bit of testimony, this witness/suspect rapidly puts together a series of "patches" for the various holes in the story. All of them hold up surprisingly well to scrutiny... unless you realize that one of the explanations he gives includes information that you have, but he wouldn't have unless he had either been in your courtroom when your suspect had testified (which he couldn't have possibly), or had been at the scene of the crime around the time it had happened (which he claimed he hadn't).
- Celestia Ludenberg in Danganronpa isn't called the "Queen of the Liars" for nothing. One example was when Asahina found a laptop in the bath house (the only room without cameras) left by the Ultimate Programmer to help everyone escape. When Monokuma wants to know why they're congratulating Asahina as they're leaving, Ludenberg quickly puts together a story about Hina winning exclusive use of the bath house for the girls in a game of rock-paper-scissors against the boys (since the bath isn't gender-separated). The protagonist notes that her poker face is perfect while she says all that.
- Roger of American Dad! frequently manages to utilise one of these (given his multiple dress up personas, he is likely come to be accustomed to it).
- Stan actually labels it something of an endearing trademark for him when he seemingly reads off a number of redemptions he vows to accomplish off a sheet of paper (it's all just a spontaneous lie, the paper is blank).
- In the South Park episode "Toilet Paper", Eric Cartman delivers one in Motor Mouth fashion when fabricating a cover for their eponymous incident:
Cartman: Okay. Last night, all four of us were at the bowling alley until about 7:30, at which time we noticed Ally Sheedy, the Goth chick from the Breakfast Club, was bowling in the lane next to us, and we asked her for her autograph, but she didn't have a pen, so we followed her out to her car, but on the way we were accosted by five Scientologists who wanted to give us all personality tests, which were administered at the Scientology Center in Denver until 10:45, at which time we accidentally boarded the wrong bus home and ended up in Rancho de Burritos Rojos, south of Castle Rock, and finally got a ride home with a man who was missing his left index finger, named Gary Bushwell, arriving home at 11:46.
- The titular character of Top Cat often engages in this.
- The Simpsons: In "Little Girl in the Big Ten", Lisa becomes friends with two girls in her gymnastics class who are actually college-aged, looking younger due to their short statures. So, Lisa attempts to pass herself off as another college student. Asking where she lives, Lisa tells them she lives "off-campus", and when they take her home, they hear Homer singing (well, trying to sing) "Tubthumping" inside, before hurling a keg out the window.
- Undercover agents and police officers are trained to do this. A key tactic is to create a cover story that matches your real life as closely as possible, but varies in key points, then practice those differences over and over until it comes naturally (so, not exactly spontaneous), and add plenty of details, which will often be true. Well trained agents can apparently routinely beat lie detectors this way.
- The idea behind this is "the best lies contain elements of the truth," and spies will often have cover names similar or identical to their real names so as to make it easier to pick up the cover. Plus that way you're less likely to contradict yourself and blow your own cover.
- Exact Words are used as often as possible in this as you can tell the lie by telling the truth. If someone speaking with a southern American accent says they were born in the capital of Georgia, most people are going to assume they mean Atlanta, not Tbilisi.
- An actual piece of advice for spotting a liar is that, when someone's telling a lie, they'll volunteer far more detailed information than if they were telling the truth.