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

Truth, lies, and deception. If only it were easier to tell them apart. Listed are multiple tropes that fall into one of the three categories. And The Shades of Fact offers insight into their fictional equivalents.


Tropes of Truth

First, recognize honest intent, whether expressed as the plain truth or a technical falsehood.
See also A Trusting Index and the Information Desk.

  • Awful Truth: Something is true, but the truth is so bad that people keep it secret out of fear that other people will go mad.
  • Based on a True Story: A work which is, or claims to be, based upon something which really happened.
  • Beware the Honest Ones: Shifty characters distrust an honest one.
  • Blunt "Yes": Someone says, "yes" in a blunt tone as a response to a yes-or-no question.
  • Brutal Honesty: You'd expect a character to lie, but they just tell the truth.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Someone is literally unable to lie.
  • Cassandra Truth: Someone tells the truth, but nobody believes them.
  • Contagious Cassandra Truth: Somebody cannot get anybody to believe something they know is true, but they manage to convince one, but nobody else.
  • Deception Noncompliance: Somebody has to deceive, but they deliberately mess it up.
  • A Dog Ate My Homework: A student doesn't bring their homework and claims that a dog ate it, which is either a lie or a Cassandra Truth.
  • Dreaming the Truth: Somebody has a dream that makes them realise the truth.
  • False Reassurance: Someone tells the absolute truth, but makes it seem like they mean something else.
  • Helpful Hallucination: A hallucinated person tells the truth and helps an actual character.
  • Heroic Vow: A hero makes a promise they will not break.
  • Honesty Is the Best Policy: Somebody tells the truth, because they feel they do not need to lie.
  • I Gave My Word: Dialogue which basically means "I promised to do or not do something, you can't make me do otherwise", which often turns out to be irrational.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: Someone finds something, goes to show somebody else, but by the time they come to see, it's gone.
  • Lie Detector: Something which can tell whether or not somebody is lying.
  • Literal Metaphor: The simple truth, mistaken for a metaphor. Often a part of the Prophecy Twist.
  • New Era Speech: A villain who wants to take over does a speech that is true, but is ambiguous enough to sound like they want to do something good when really they want to do something bad.
  • No Man of Woman Born: Some sort of prophecy or something says that something cannot happen until something else, which sounds impossible but somehow isn't, does.
  • No More Lies: A lie that was useful no longer is.
  • Not Even Bothering with an Excuse: Somebody doesn't want to help a character but doesn't make an excuse.
  • Prophecy Twist: A prophecy comes true, but not in the expected way.
  • Recorded Spliced Conversation: Trying to pretend that a recording of another person is the actual person speaking.
  • So Crazy, It Must Be True: Believing a true, but really weird-sounding, story.
  • Truth in Television: A trope which happens in real life.
  • Truth Serums: A drug which makes the taker be honest.
  • Villains Never Lie: A villain tells the truth in a manipulative way.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Someone who technically can lie, but chooses not to.

Tropes of Deception

Second, learn the myriad shades of deception, purely for self-defense, of course.
See also Espionage Tropes and the Infauxmation Desk.

  • 2 + Torture = 5: The villain tortures the hero by trying to make them believe something that's obviously not true.
  • Bluffing the Advance Scout: Aliens want to do something bad to Earth, but the humans trick the aliens' advance scouts into thinking all humans are too nasty to deal with.
  • Bluffing the Authorities: An authority figure thinks someone did something suspicious, but the suspected character comes up with an innocent explanation.
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper: Somebody discovers they are being watched and starts acting to trick the watcher.
  • Bluff the Impostor: Tricking an impostor into exposing themselves by making an obvious mistake.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Somebody is pretty sure who dunnit, but doesn't know for sure so tries to trick the suspect into confessing.
  • Cassandra Gambit: Invoking a Cassandra Truth to hide something.
  • Confronting Your Imposter: An impersonator is exposed by the person they're impersonating.
  • Consummate Liar: "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.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: When someone in authority claims a suspicious death is due to an accident, suicide, or natural causes.
  • 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.
  • Crocodile Tears: Pretending to cry to gain other people's sympathy.
  • Deliberately Cute Child: Using a cute façade to get what one wants.
  • 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.
  • Fake Period Excuse: Pretending to menstruate.
  • 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.
  • Gaslighting: Using deceit to intentionally convince someone that he is insane.
  • Gas Leak Cover-Up: 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.
  • Hypocrite: Somebody who does things they say they don't like doing.
  • 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.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Tricking a suspect into revealing something only they would know.
  • Infraction Distraction: When someone confesses to or commits a small crime in order to cover for a bigger one.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: A character pretends to surrender but attacks once the opponent lowers his guard.
  • Minor with Fake ID: An underage character uses a forged identity document to buy alcohol or something they're otherwise too young to access.
  • Move Along, Nothing to See Here: A Stock Phrase for authority figures wanting to prevent people from seeing something.
  • Multiple Identity IDs: When someone has several fake IDs for several fake identities.
  • 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).
  • Obfuscating Disability: Faking a disability to mislead onlookers or throw off suspicion.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Likewise a character could fake insanity...
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Or a lack of intelligence.
  • Playing Sick: Pretending to be ill to avoid responsibilities or consequences.
  • Propaganda Hero: A hero either embellished or made up out of whole cloth for propaganda purposes
  • Propaganda Machine: A program or agency that exists to promulgate an official (and often misleading) version of the truth.
  • Propaganda Piece: Publications geared to influence the public first and foremost, with journalistic integrity as an afterthought or completely absent.
  • Recorded Spliced Conversation: Manipulating a recording to make a target think they're speaking to a real person.
  • Reverse Psychology: Getting someone to do something by telling them to do the opposite.
  • 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.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Using supernatural myths and Urban Legends to scare someone for whatever reason.
  • Seamless Spontaneous Lie: A quick, incredibly detailed and not easily disproved lie.
  • Social Engineering: Convincing someone that you're someone else, or convincing someone to do something they don't want to do.
  • Staging The Eavesdrop: Intentionally saying something loudly with the explicit intent of getting someone to eavesdrop on it.
  • 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.
  • 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

For outright fabrications that may never be discovered as such.
See also Dirty Social Tricks.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TruthAndLies