Stop lying to your readers!
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt scammed.
I know I have. You see, a very annoying thing happened to me yesterday. I was duped into reading something I didn’t want to read. I mean, I did at first, of course. But only because it appeared to be something other than what I thought it was. Once I realized what the writer had done, I got this ‘Ick’ feeling in the pit of my stomach. Like I’d been swindled out of money or tricked out of Halloween candy. Bleh.
It was one of those “(Insert famous celebrity’s name) Heartbreaking News!” captions on Facebook that caught my eye. I usually skim right past them, because most are advertisements. But a friend of mine had actually posted the article and ohmygosh! What? What heartbreaking news could this famous person have? So I clicked and I read. And you know what? There was no ‘heartbreaking news’. It was just sort of a mediocre story about the celebrity’s life and how they were a good person, blah, blah, blah. Nothing heartbreaking. It was a ploy to get the reader to click on the link and read the article. I’d been scammed. And I felt like a fool for having fallen for it.
And then I understood.
A friend of mine who often reads my Flash Fiction before I publish, once cautioned me to take a specific line out of one of my stories or else the readers would be mad at me for deliberately lying to them. The story had a twist at the end – the way most all of them do – but the specific line she referenced was to trick the reader into believing one thing, so that they’d be surprised at the end. Except that it was a flat out lie. “Your readers won’t trust you anymore, if you lie to them. Allow their minds to go in a different direction with clues, yes, but don’t lie. They won’t want to read your stuff anymore.”
She was right. Painfully so.
Since then, I’ve asked various others to read my fiction to be sure I don’t fall into that trap, because I obviously want to keep my readers! It is a fundamental rule I missed somewhere early on in my writing, and something I need to keep an eye out for, as I revise and edit. Because nothing is worse than feeling like you’ve been duped after you’ve read something. To have that yucky sensation of being scammed for simply having the interest to read something. I hate the way that feels. And I’d never want to make someone else feel that way. So I’m changing the way I write.
What about you? Have you ever been so eager for that twist at the end, that you’ve allowed your words to get away from you, revealing an untruth in the process? What is your experience with feeling scammed after reading an article with a catchy headline? Feel free to comment below!
Happy reading, friends!