Friday, May 18, 2012
The legend of the empty house was deliciously lurid. A crazy man had lived there, the story went, and whenever anyone ventured into his home, he killed them with an ax. I have no idea where this story came from, but the older kids in the neighborhood swore it was true, so we younger kids believed it without question. One time, a couple of the older kids even took some of us into the old house and showed us the wall, where a series of marks denoted his record of kills. Ooo, that was a chilling moment.
Of course, there had been no ax murderer living in that empty house, but why mess up a chilling story with the truth?
I think part of being a storyteller is enjoying a good conspiracy theory. Nothing ever happens by chance in a storyteller's world. There's always a reason for everything, hidden machinations that impart reason to otherwise senseless acts. And because human beings are hardwired to enjoy stories, we are often willing participants in our own deception. Because who doesn't want to make sense of a senseless world?
So instead of believing a single, unstable man shot the president from the window of a book depository in Dallas, some are utterly convinced that there were multiple gunmen, and any number of perpetrators—Castro, the mob, the CIA—were really behind the assassination. Or that a moon landing broadcast on film was clearly a Hollywood trick to convince us that something as fantastical as man walking on the moon could actually happen.
And you know what? Those conspiracy theories are usually a lot more interesting than the more banal truth.
My working title for my May book from Harlequin Intrigue, Secret Agenda, was "Cooper Conspiracy," because the hero and heroine, Evan Pike and Megan Cooper Randall, methodically unravel the truth about the death of Megan's Army sergeant husband, who was killed four years earlier on the other side of the world. And the more they learn about his death, the more they realize that the people who killed him aren't finished with their deadly plot. To cover up the truth, they'll remove any obstacle to their plans—including Megan and Evan.
Do you have a favorite conspiracy theory? And do you really believe them, or do you see yourself as I see myself, as a willing, even eager participant in your own deception? 'Fess up!