False Pretenses

The False Pretense (or Big Lie) is another classic example of a romantic obstacle.  This one dovetails with the Unspoken Truth; while one could be resolved if someone would just say something, the other doesn’t become an obstacle until someone says something.

The Big Lie is when one or the other of your romantic couple has a big secret that could mess everything up.  A common way of making this happen is to have one (or both) start the relationship for a reason besides interest in the other person.  A great example of this is the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, wherein she sets out to start dating a guy just to lose him (for a magazine article) and he sets out to start dating her to win a bet.  There are a multitude of reasons you can create for someone as a false pretense; writing an article and to win a bet are just two common ones.

Another (trickier to write) version of the Big Lie is something in one person’s life that they conceal from the other, usually something that could be a deal breaker.  Unlike the Unspoken Truth, it is intentionally concealed or omitted.  This could be a kid, a spouse, a medical condition; the challenge here is to make it a possible problem without making it unforgivable.  That’s a two-part challenge.  If the Lie isn’t big enough the reader won’t buy it; if it’s too big, the reader won’t buy the couple getting back together.

Just like all of the other romantic obstacles, you have to keep the reader in mind when you fling this in the path of the characters.  This is one (like the Love Triangle) that can be dangerous – it has to be played just right, so that you don’t alienate your characters from each other, or your readers from your story.

As a fun aside, you can also use a False Pretense to get a couple together, although it plays out a bit differently.  In this case, two people who are not romantically involved pretend to be together in order to fool a third person or group.  Eventually, their pretense leads them to true attraction and suddenly the big lie isn’t a lie anymore… 🙂


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