Sometimes when you try a Scheherezade Gambit, you come up with a decent piece of art.
This trope comes into play when a character pretends to be working on a story, book, or movie idea as a cover for some shadier activity. While the plot is usually concerned with whatever they're covering for, sometimes the character will be surprised to find people like their idea and want to see it completed. Some examples may even end with the character's fake story taking on a life of its own, leading to unexpected success.
Compare to Becoming the Mask. Can sometimes be used when Talking Your Way Out. Reality Ensues if someone realizes the supposedly fictional plot resembles a reported crime or incident. Can overlap with It's for a Book, if people want to see how the book turns out.
- Monsters, Inc.: While arguing over returning Boo to her world, Mike yells at Sully, "Put that thing back where it came from or so help me—" before realizing other monsters are listening, and gamely tries to pass it off as them rehearsing a musical. During the end credits, we see the premiere of Put That Thing Back Where It Came From or So Help Me, a musical adaptation of Mike and Sulley's adventure.
- Inverted in Argo, where the plot is concerned with manufacturing a phony sci-fi movie production to smuggle American citizens out of Iran. The movie script already existed, and the CIA managed to obtain it because everyone in Hollywood thought it was trash.
- Played with in Basic Instinct: Catherine Tramell tells Nick she's working on a book called Shooter, about a cop who falls in love with the wrong woman and gets murdered. Since the title is his nickname, it appears she's using their relationship for either research or to cover her trail in a string of murders. However, since Most Writers Are Writers, Catherine is actually seen working on the book throughout the movie. By the end, it's unclear if the book is inspired by the events around it, or is inspiring said events to happen.
- Falling Down: As Foster prepares to blow up a construction site with an RPG, a young boy approaches and asks him if he's making a movie. Foster says yes, and asks him if he likes the title Under Construction.
- In Moulin Rouge!, Christian is caught with Satine by her prospective patron the Duke. Christian claims they're collaborating on a play for the Duke to finance and improvises a pitch with his Bohemian friends. The Duke ends up liking the idea, and Christian writes an epic musical about India, mostly so that he and Satine can have their love affair under the Duke's nose.
- Throw Momma from the Train: Mr. Pinsky, a middle-aged student in Larry's writing class, is working on a "coffee table book" titled 101 Women I'd Like to Pork. Larry and several students accuse him of just making a list of women he wants to have sex with, but others are somehow intrigued by the premise. By the end, we see that he has written a weighty coffee table book simply titled Pinsky, and Larry even agrees to write the foreword.
- Inverted in Tomorrow Never Dies: When James Bond hints he knows Elliot Carver is behind a recent naval incident, Carver quips that Bond has a vivid imagination ("For a banker"), and that Carver should commission him to write a novel.
- Stephen King often uses this trope:
- In "Dolan's Cadillac", the narrator seeks help from a physics teacher as part of a plot to trap his wife's killer. He uses the pretense of writing a sci-fi novel, and is surprised to find himself coming up with some good plot details.
- The basic plot of Misery: Novelist Paul Sheldon is forced to write a new Misery Chastain novel for psychotic nurse Annie Wilkes. What begins as a fairly simple Scheherezade Gambit evolves into the most ambitious novel he's ever written. After he finally kills Annie and returns to his life, Paul publishes Misery's Return to great acclaim.
- A meta example: King began the story "1408" for his book On Writing simply to demonstrate the changes to make between first and second drafts; he was charmed to find the story seduced him and ended up writing all of it. Later "1408" ended up in several collections and adapted into a film.
- One episode of Black Books sees Bernard and Manny trying to write a children's book while extremely drunk. Against all logic and reason, Bernard churns out a 1,000-page novel with a complex plot and themes... but it's not at all appropriate for children.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine: While at her high school reunion, Gina pretends she's become uber-wealthy and successful just to screw with her former classmates. During one conversation, she pretends she's an app developer, and her latest venture is an app that parents can use to find play dates for their children. While she's completely making it up on the spot, she realizes it's actually something she'd like to do for real. This is what makes her (and Jake) realize she's no longer satisfied with her job at the Nine-Nine, and it might be time for her to move on.
- Played with in Breaking Bad: In Season 1, Skylar asks Marie for info on marijuana, pretending it's research for a short story. Marie isn't fooled, but mistakenly thinks Skyler is hinting that Junior is smoking weed (it's actually Skylar's husband Walt). Later in Season 3, Skylar's fiction writing skills come in handy when she constructs an insanely detailed story that Walt got his money from illegal gambling, down to adding stage directions for their "confession." Even Walt himself finds the story fascinating.
- Full House: DJ and Stephanie rearrange Danny's room to hide a hole they accidentally punched in the wall while bickering. He catches them, and they pretend they were using his room to rehearse a song about what a great dad he is, improving one on the spot. Later, when Danny finds them they figure they're in trouble... but he actually just wants to hear the song again.
- The Haunting of Hill House: Played with. Steve uses the trauma of Hill House as material for his extremely successful ghost stories... however, in spite of his public reputation, he is (ironically) firmly against the supernatural and believes everything has a Mundane Solution. But he's wrong about Hill House, which is not fake and is really haunted.
- In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Charlie writes a bizarre fantasy musical called The Nightman Cometh as part of a plot to get the Waitress to marry him (and possibly work through his own Freudian issues). While not good per se, the musical still manages to get a decent crowd and a round of applause. In Real Life, the cast took The Nightman Cometh on the road afterwards, becoming a meta example of this trope.
- Leverage has delved into this trope a few times.
- In "The Stork Job", the team sets up a fake movie shoot as a pretense for their latest con. Naturally, Sophie forces Nate to give her a role in the fake movie. Much to the astonishment of the team, she actually turns in a good performance.
- In "The Studio Job", Eliot poses as a rising country star, but things take a turn when he's actually successful.
- In "The Office Job", the team gets involved with an eccentric documentary director as part of their latest con. Much to their shock, the documentary actually ends up being good. Fortunately, he ends up destroying it because it's not depressing enough for his tastes, and thus any incriminating footage of them is lost.
- Star Trek: Voyager: Tuvok wrote a holodeck training program for Starfleet officers in preparation for a possible Maquis mutiny. When it became clear the Maquis weren't going to mutiny, he stopped working on it and buried it in the archives. The crew found the program and thought it was a fantasy adventure, and they absolutely loved it.
- You: Beck tricks Joe by writing a series of poems while she's trapped in the cage that implicates Dr Nicky in her abduction, telling Joe that they use it to frame him so he doesn't "have" to kill her. He kills her anyway. But, in an overlap with Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!, her poems are so good that they do implicate Dr Nicky after her death and are used to frame him for her murder, and they become wildly successful, which is implied to be at least in part because of the concluding "event" — her murder by Nicky.
- A minor example in Over the Garden Wall, crossed with Comically Missing the Point: Afraid that they're about to be executed by the citizens of Pottsville, Wirt distracts them with a story about removing rocks from their field while Beatrice and Greg try breaking their shackles. Halfway through, Wirt realizes they've run off without him and starts freaking out, only for one of the Pottsville folks to say, "Finish the story, young fella! What happened to the rocks?"