Amy Wallace

Amy Wallace is a serious chocoholic. Her favorite food informs her style of writing: Dark Chocolate Suspense—high-action suspense that delves deep into heart issues. Besides a chocolate connoisseur, Amy is a homeschool mom of three, speaker, advanced martial artist, and writing teacher for teens. Her novels include Hiding in Plain Sight, Nowhere to Run, and the Defenders of Hope Series: Ransomed Dreams, Healing Promises, and Enduring Justice. Please visit Amy at, or come hang out with her on Facebook.

For Writers Only

Chocolate-Covered Lies

My favorite fiction tool and my favorite desserts share a common theme: they’re chocolate covered. Chocolate-covered strawberries. Chocolate-covered éclairs. Chocolate-covered Death by Chocolate cake. Craving some chocolate goodness yet?

In fiction, my favorite chocolate-covered writing tool is the lie. It’s more bittersweet than a decadent dessert, but understanding chocolate-covered lies will sweeten your fiction and provide a satisfying story that draws your readers deeper into hope and healing.

To help us out here, my newest character, chocolate-loving police officer Ashley Walters from Hiding in Plain Sight, will step up and let us analyze her lie. It’s my hope and prayer that through observing lies at work, you’ll gain a better understanding of what your character’s lie is and how knowing her lie will enable you to focus plot and conflict as well as create even deeper characterization that connects with the heart of readers.

For our purposes, a lie is what we believe about ourselves—true or not—that drives every one of our actions and our characters’ actions.

Here are some examples of lies:

I’m unloveable
I’m helpless
I’m worthless
I’m not good enough
I’m stuck
I’m a horrible person
It’s all my fault
I’m a failure
I’m all alone
I’m not enough

Chocolate-covered lies zero in on what our main character believes is most true about herself, those emotionally charged phrases your character tells herself.

Let’s take a closer look at Ashley’s lie: I’m not enough.

On the outside, Ashley is a tough, street-smart cop who has it all together. She graduated top of her police academy class and is a favorite with the people she serves because she goes the extra mile to care about victims of crimes and makes sure justice is served.

Inside is a different story. Ashley is broken and hears the tapes in her head play the reasons why. She never measured up in her parent’s eyes to her perfect, all-American brother, Eric. When died and she wasn’t able to save him or bring his killer to justice, she believes her lie as absolute truth. Even so, she sets out to prove she’s enough, leading her deeper and deeper into danger.

A different character may believe the same lie, but give up. She might give in to alcoholism or failing in school because she believes she’s not enough and doesn’t see any way to prove otherwise.

The specific attributes and how your character deals with his or her lie will differ. Just as God created us to be one-of-a-kind sons and daughters of the King, we create our characters to be as complex and individual as we are. Tailor the lies for each character and bring outcomes as varied as your imagination. But knowing your character’s lie will help you do a number of vital things with each story you design.

Lies Keep Your Character’s Journey Focused

Everything that comes against your character will beat on his lie in one way or another. In real life we believe certain things about ourselves and those lies drive us toward perfection in one or more areas, or we give up and don’t bother. Or we land somewhere between those two extremes. A person who believes they’re unloveable will interpret every slight, every bad circumstance as proof of their lie being true.

Ashley grew up with a protective, loving, superhero of an older brother. Eric was everything Ashley wanted to be. Eric’s almost perfection beat on what she believed about herself: that she’ll never be enough.

Early on, Ashley faces at gunpoint a runaway teenager from the nearby Mennonite community. His resemblance to Eric breaks through some of her tough walls. Her lie drives her to help this teen and his family to the point it costs her everything.

Even Ashley’s relationships are clouded and endangered the deeper she spirals, the more she tries to prove she is enough, all the while believing she’ll never be enough.

Lies are powerful motivators … and destroyers of our, and our characters’, dreams. So when we trace our characters’ pathways using their lies as a guidepost, we create a believable and impossible-to-ignore journey that carries with it the potential to point readers, and ourselves, to the truth and toward healing.

Lies Enhance Conflict

In fiction, we usually compress a lot of trials into a short span of time, always increasing the trouble and danger, both emotional and physical. One way to add depth to those trials and make them touch readers at a heart level is to incorporate the character’s lie into her responses.

Inner thoughts are a great way to point toward a lie and show the pain those lies cause. We tend to root for characters who are hurting because we desire to see them overcome, even when we don’t agree with the way they act.

So even when Ashley makes a wrong decision, her inner thoughts regarding her lie add weight to her actions so that they make sense. We become invested in Ashley’s story, in watching her overcome those inner beliefs and triumph when we hear her think things like, “She had nothing left to lift up to God right now,” or, “She couldn’t be late this time. Not again.”

Lies Provide a Framework for Emotional and Spiritual Resolution

Growth comes when your characters experience truth and then accept their lies are false. Then they begin to make decisions based on who God says they are. A character who believes she is unloveable comes face-to-face with God’s unconditional love and is changed.

Growth and resolution can also come from the character accepting his lie of being helpless is actually true, admitting that he can’t control every situation in his life. Ashley’s lie of not being enough provides ample opportunity to highlight truth: about how God is enough and much better at being in control than Ashley is; truth that’s organic to the story, which grows out of Ashley’s questions and failures and search for a different way to live that doesn’t hurt so much. Truth that doesn’t dissolve into sermonizing.

Truth and healing grab hold of Ashley’s heart and she overcomes her worst nightmares to live a life that’s even better than before. That’s a satisfying ending.

Dealing with lies in fiction mirrors real life—healing is oftentimes simple, not easy. Your character coming to realization doesn’t mean she won’t struggle or face more challenges, but when you hit that black moment and your character realizes her lie is holding her back from what she most wants, then she is faced with a choice: remain in status quo or charge ahead and see if what God says about her is really true. When she chooses the latter, your character will inspire readers to do the same.

Lies Bring Your Characters to Life

People will connect with a character who struggles with a lie because they can relate. Even if they never identified their struggle as a lie, it’s likely they’ve felt or experienced the thoughts your character does: being unloved, unwanted, of not being enough.

“No one else wants me.”

“No matter what, he’d be there for Ashley.”

“She wanted to cry. To feel something. But there was nothing left.”

“You’re not alone in that, Ash. We all use something to protect ourselves.”

Lines that evoke emotion, especially those that push on a lie will lead your readers to having that “me too” experience. They’ll stick with your story until they find answers about how to overcome that lie and grow, answers that God may use to change readers’ hearts and lives and set them free.

And isn’t that what we want to write—life-changing fiction?

So stir in a little chocolate-covered lies, and watch God work. He’s all about doing more than we can ask or imagine. And His way, in real life as well as in our stories, provides a satisfying resolution that draws us and our readers deeper into hope and healing, which taste better than the most exquisite chocolate.


Hiding In Plain Sight