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Truth and Lies

Truth: Noun. That which most easily appeals to the fears, hopes, and prejudices of the hearer; in essence, a lie.

Lie: Noun. That which causes its utterer to be reviled; in essence, the truth.

Deceit: Noun. Example: A dog rolls on the carcass of a dead possum in order to deceive other animals regarding his identity as a dog (whereas) a man lolls in the scents of church in order to deceive himself regarding his identity as a thief, an adulterer, and a liar (the difference is that the dog does not first have to endure being bored by the possum).
— Thorax, 9 Chickweed Lane

The thing about truth and deceptions is that they are always of a certain kind. If only you could recognize them before they arrive... Here are a few hints.


Tropes of Truth

First, recognize honest intent, whether expressed as the plain truth or a technical falsehood. Possibilities include:

Tropes of Deception

Second, learn the myriad shades of deception, purely for self-defense, of course.

  • Cassandra Gambit: invoking a Cassandra Truth to hide something.
  • Cover Identity Anomaly: Missing some basic piece of information about someone you're pretending to be, often forcing you to make up something on the spot.
  • Did Not Die That Way: a character finds out they have been lied to about a loved one's death.
  • Embarrassing Cover Up: Where the cover story goes into territory that makes the questioner regret asking.
  • False Reassurance, a lie that is the truth in its Exact Words. A guard at a railroad track back in the 1920s was testifying that he was swinging his lamp when the automobile crashed into the train at 3 in the morning. It was determined later that while he was swinging his lamp to warn oncoming traffic, the lamp was not lit at the time.
  • Fiction As Coverup: Hiding the truth in plain sight by calling it fictional.
  • Forged Message: Writing a message but making it look like someone else wrote it.
  • Gas Leak Coverup: A simple, dull, believable excuse for something that is none of those.
  • Half Truth: A statement that is technically true, but extremely misleading if you don't have all the information.
  • Ignorance Is Bliss: A character or characters are told that what they are doing is something completely harmless or beneficial when it's actually dangerous or evil.
  • Infraction Distraction: When someone confesses to or commits a small crime in order to cover for a bigger one.
  • Move Along, Nothing to See Here: A stock phrase for authority figures wanting to prevent people from seeing something.
  • Mysterious Backer: The characters are only being told as much as they need to know.
  • Outright Lie: 'I am trustworthy', 'The Earth is mine to sell' — both are falsehoods knowingly spoken with intent to deceive. This is the trademark of the Con Man and the schemer, resorted to by anyone covering up a Big Secret. However subtle they may be, Pull the Thread and they collapse (which is why the liar often takes Refuge in Audacity, to keep someone from pulling the thread).
  • Propaganda Machine: exists to make propaganda; publications geared to influence the public first & foremost, with journalistic integrity as an afterthought, if that.
  • Seamless Spontaneous Lie: A quick, incredibly detailed and not easily disproved lie.
  • Sarcastic Confession: A truth that will not be believed. Often used to support the masquerade, this both deflects attention from the truth now and makes one less willing to accept the truth later.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: Alice confronts Bob, who is obviously hiding something, and she concludes something wildly different than the secret Bob is actually sitting on, but Bob confesses to Alice's accusation only because he's covering up something darker or just embarrassing.
  • Truth Twister: "Looks are only skin-deep," "The Earth is doomed," "No one who has drunk my tonic has ever died" — all carefully selected truths, intended to deceive, the hallmark of advertisers and politicians. Expect anyone unable to lie whether due to magic, Applied Phlebotinum, or just being a Manipulative Bastard type, to be good at this.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Name: This innocent sounding group are not a secret organisation of any sort, you won't even question their involvement or even notice their existence. The name is likely to be technically correct though.
  • You Didn't Ask: when a character simply doesn't tell/mention something that's particularly large, hard to avoid in conversation, or just really should have been mentioned.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: A villain lies to someone to get them to go along with a plan that will ultimately hurt those that they care about, or otherwise makes a promise that he has no intention of keeping. Often involves use of loopholes.

Tropes of Lies

Finally, remember this is just the start. Deception can be layered on deception, true lies cloaking misleading truths, until not even the trickster can tell which way up is.

See also Information Desk, about tropes whose truthfulness or dishonesty is not guaranteed; Infauxmation Desk, about false information; and A Trusting Index, which is about tropes regarding trust.
Information DeskThe Shades of FactReal Life
Tropes of WisdomTopical TropesVehicle Tropes
Tropes of WisdomTropesVandalism Tropes
Time Travel TropesPlotsAccidental Athlete
Stupidity TropesImageSource/Web ComicsWhat Measure Is an Index?
Threatening TropesDialogueWord Power

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