Similar to this question, but more specifically about outright lies.

I am thinking of having a title that misleads or lies about the end of the novel. Something along the lines of “They Don’t Get Together in The End” so that the reader knows not to expect a typical boy meets girl story. The lie is that they DO get together, but just not in the way you’d expect (they are both asexual and end up in a vaguely romantic, nonsexual sort of partnership).

I don’t have any examples from books at hand, but in the film adaptation of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

the narrator Greg directly assures the reader that Rachel is NOT going to die. As far as I remember he says it a couple of times. But then she does. I figure that the purpose of this was to recreate in the reader Greg’s disbelief that Rachel was ever really going to die. It’s also possibly making the point that our deceased love ones live on in our memories, or something to that effect.

I’m not sure the above example does it well, but needless to say this is difficult to pull off without pissing off your audience. So what could you do in order to make the lie easier to accept by the audience?

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    You can use spoiler markdown for spoilers by writing ">!" without the quotation marks at the start of a line.
    – Secespitus
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 17:51
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    Why would you need to lie to the reader? What I mean is, why would you need to say "they don't get together" instead of saying nothing at all, and just letting the reader find out? Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 18:46
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    A warning: Many readers read books to satisfy a specific need. For example, I'm single and lonely and I read love-stories with a happy end to help me endure my sad life. If your book promises me a happy end and does not deliver, you in fact add to the pain in my life, and I'll write an angry one star review on Amazon and never buy another book from you ever again. You can have an unreliable narrator, but the sales arguments for your book (including title, cover image, and blurb) must be truthful. Never lie to your customers about what you sell. Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 20:26
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    Also, if your book relies on surprising the reader, how does it live up to a second reading? Good fiction cannot be spoilt by giving away the end. Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 20:28
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    Your title immediately reminded me of the novel "John Dies At The End" (though I haven't read it, and have no idea whether he actually does or not).
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 16:42

3 Answers 3


What you are aiming for here is a form of meta humor. Humor that is interesting because the work is self-referential. It is totally OK to do this, and if done correctly, it can be very clever. I honestly went into "There Will Be Blood" thinking they were going to do something like that and found the reality to be kind of disappointing. It would have been better if they had reversed it in my opinion, since there really wasn't much blood in that movie. The tone is important with meta-humor. You have to frame things such that the reader feels in on the joke. If done properly, the self-referential nature can be refreshing and can elevate a work, just don't over use it.


This has been done before very successfully by a famous author!

In Anthony Horowitz's Moriarty, the book is started by something along the lines of 'Let me tell you that my name is Frederick Chase...' . The 'protagonist' (the narrator) then goes on an adventure with another Detective to find and arrest Moriarty, a criminal mastermind.

At the end, the Detective is held at gunpoint by an antagonist and looks to the narrator for help. The narrator then goes on to promptly shoot the Detective and flees with the antagonist. It is at this point that the narrator reveals that they initially lied, and that they're actually Moriarty! Genius! (By the way, Moriarty doesn't appear (in the third person) throughout the whole story until this point.)

The reader isn't left feeling betrayed; on the contrary, the readeractually feels quite awestruck.

Anyway, my point is that you can get away with doing anything in your book (such as lying) as long as it interests your reader.


The best way to do this is via the untrustworthy narrator or a character (Fight Club); because they totally lie all of the time. And it's perfectly fine to introduce false information in a story. The reason its best to do it this way is it doesn't feel like a trick; it feels like an affect of personality, which goes a long way to smoothing the reader over.

A good story likely does not need a lie on the title page, but I can envision it being a good way to frame a story or reversal in some narrative out there; I just also think you can't outright get away with it unless you already have a winning story, and then at that point everyone in the business will call you on it unless it somehow extremely fits the book. It's also not likely to be a secret you keep very long if it's on the front cover of the book. People always introduce books to friends verbally7 and a big lie like that will probably invoke "So, ignore the title page, but this is a really good story," if you actually do manage to win over an audience in spite of yourself.

Think about it this way: You as an author are trying to create a brand. That brand is yourself. If you devalue that brand, it has ramifications for that brand in the future. While it may be technically possible to write an effective and even loved book that openly lies to the reader. If you put all the blame, justifiably on your characters, you don't risk your brand. From a purely economical standpoint, you almost should never lie as the author.

There is always an exception, but are the risks really worth finding out if you're the one who's going to win the lottery?

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    It can also help to provide clues to the truth so that the reader kicks themselves when the truth is revealed. Fight Club and The Sixth Sense are good examples of this, as are most detective stories. Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 19:39
  • The Cask of Amontillado is another famous example of an unreliable narrator lying about the truth of the story to the reader. In that example, the reader is pretty heavily clued that the narrator is a bit... crazy. Commented Mar 16, 2018 at 18:30

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