1. Morgan Elizabeth Waites
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    Morgan Elizabeth Waites New Member

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    Help me with this problem, please.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Morgan Elizabeth Waites, May 17, 2012.

    I've just started writing a novel about a girl who lives in a small village. It is set in early 18th century England. The girl - my protagonist I suppose you could say - is being goaded by her widowed mother to marry a rich man. A mysterious young man arrives to claim his recently deceased father's inheritance and estate. The story will center around my protagonist falling in love with him and the mystery surrounding his arrival and sketchy past.
    Now, the problem I'm having concerning the plot is, well, the young man is actually a young woman in disguise. Shocking, I know! So far, I've only just introduced "him" so I'm not concerned really about how I'm going to write the reveal... but I am concerned as to whether I should throw some hints at the reader or just utterly shock them when the big reveal arrives. There is also the prospect of letting the reader know from the very beginning, so that it's just the narrator and reader's little secret. I know that's in a lot of other books, but it's not near as delicious as shocking them all at once...
    So what should I do? Help me please! :D
     
  2. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    How does she go about disguising herself? I'm assuming her breasts are rather small and she does not mind binding them to the point of not being able to breathe well. Is she a pretty woman in reality or rather homely?
     
  3. Morgan Elizabeth Waites
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    Morgan Elizabeth Waites New Member

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    Well yes, her breasts are quite small, and she binds them as well. She is tall and thin with pale skin and dark brown hair. She also has brooding eyebrows and a clearly defined jaw, which makes her look more masculine. But I would call her striking, not homely at all.
     
  4. indy5live
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    indy5live Active Member

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    I wrote a story where a girl was raped. She was engaged to her boyfriend of 5 years when this happened, but the aftermath of being rapped was too much for her to bear that she turned away from men in general. She found help at a women's hospital where she met with a therapist and talked with other girls that have experienced the same thing she did. But nothing help, she couldn't get the image out of her head of the man that raped her and left her only inches from her life. This destroyed her fiancés heart, because of course she called off the engagement and even feared being around him. So he went to extreme measures, cross dressing as a female and admitting himself into the women's hospital just to be around her and be able to communicate with her and possible help her recover. I didn't reveal this, of course. He was treated as a completely different character, just another girl at the hospital that his fiancé was getting to know. I revealed the truth to the audience at the same time the woman was discovering it for herself so they could feel what she felt. Her new best friend ended up being her 5-year long best friend. (Sure I make small hits of it like him accidently knowing something about her that she doesn't remember telling her but it made it so much better to save it for one big reveal). He ended up making the cosmetic changes permanent so he could be with the love of his life...but he kept his man part.
     
  5. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    I don't like the sound of this because chances are very high that this as a plot device will backfire. Readers will be shock alright, but may be to the point of throwing away the book. My advice: don't just hint, let the readers know what compels her to take just a drastic step, what are the goals she wants to achieve by posing as a man? The girl who is in love with her becomes an obstacle then. How does she try to overcome this obstacle? What about her conscience? Will she allow herself to go on lying to the girl? What about her physical appearance? What happens when the girl tries to intrude her privacy in the name of love and intimacy?

    So, to sum up, I would rather know she is a girl posing as a man upfront and read about her problems and how she deals with them than "just be shock" at the reveal.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Choose a narrator who is not in on the secret. It's not nice for a narrator to keep such a major element concealed for a long time. It's dishonest writing.

    The alternative is for the reader to be in on the secret the whole time. This has the advantage that the reader is involved in wanting her to keep her secret, which adds suspense when there is a risk of exposure.
     
  7. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I disagree. The movie "The Road Warrior" is narrated by an elderly man. Throughout the movie a small mute child is woven into the plot.

    At the end, "Max" is left standing in the middle of the road, and this small child watches him as the clan drives away.

    The narrator remarks, "And that's the last time I saw him..."

    Great twist.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That's really not the same thing. It's not a situation of, "Oh by the way, I was able to talk the entire time." One must assume he was mute due to psychological trauma, and at some later time, overcame it. Another interpretation is that he remains mute, but the POV is his thoughts, not actual speech. He was clearly aware and functional in the story, other than being mute.
     
  9. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    That's a distinction without a difference.

    The deciding issue is not just being mute, although it does exist. The idea is that the identity of the narrator is a secret plot twist until the end. For example, the boy in The Road Warrior might have been crippled, or lost an eye, or ethnic.

    The main behavior during the movie was that he was a boomerang thrower.
     
  10. Gnarly
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    Gnarly Member

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  11. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    So Keira Knightly?
     
  12. Lazy
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    Lazy Banned

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    If it was sufficiently foreshadowed then the reader will say "of course!" They won't throw the book away.

    Too many people make threads asking whether or not they should pander to their audience. How many great writers do you think have gone around asking their friends, "hey I'm not sure if anyone will like this, should I change it?" Hell, some of my favorite books were certainly written under the assumption that people wouldn't like it.
     
  13. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Well, the entire original TV series for "Mission Impossible" used plots that kept the viewer in the dark until the trap was sprung for the villain. In fact, one of the writers opined that not all viewers had a third grade education, and they did not have to be led by the nose to explain the story.

    Why does every story have to play out like a 1/2 hour TV sitcom? Why can't a little suspense or a few plot twists be such a burden?
     
  14. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    I like this idea. It's very Shakespearean... there was always cross dressing characters. Sounds like an interesting premise and a bit of a unique love story.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not true. The participants (and their skills) and part of the preparations were shown, sometimes even the entire plan. But nothing ever went exactly according to plan. There were backup plans, but invariably someone had to improvise.

    And again, there is a huge difference between not exposing every detail and concealing the central issue.
     
  16. Gnarly
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    I love twists and suspense in a story, and those aren't a burden (an actually never said the word burden)... but when you take a main character from the very first sentence until the end, and you don't know their inner workings, what they are doing or why, and you know this character as a whole different character and then find out that it's not who they are at all. That can change a readers complete perception of them.

    And I'm just say hypothetically, not definite, this could change the perception the reader has of a character. And that might frustrate a reader, and I would probably be one of those readers who feels like that.
     
  17. Lazy
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    Lazy Banned

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    Isn't that the point? You don't know the character because she is pretending to be someone else.
     
  18. Gnarly
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    I understand the writer's concept and the "point".... I'm just saying how I feel about that.

    The great thing about this website, @Lazy, and @TheTourist is that we all come from different places, different backgrounds, and those things have created our opinions. In this case, mine is just different than yours.

    Agree to Disagree.
     
  19. Steve89
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    The great thing about this website is that it makes for a great place to debate. It's not about everybody agreeing or disagreeing, but more for people to argue their own points in relation to other people's.

    Personally, I think the reader should know that this "man" is actually a woman from the outset. Like Cogito states, it would add suspense when there is a risk of being found out. The reader needs to know why she is pretending to be a man throughout in order to create empathy towards her. Otherwise, you run the risk of making it seem like you've just thrown the twist in.
     
  20. Gnarly
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    I agree with you 100% Steve on both topics.

    But, I've given reason for my reasoning that I think the reader should know this man is a woman from the beginning... and they've given their reasons for why not. And so.. "agree to disagree". I've known you cannot change a person's opinion, therefore I don't hammer people with mine.
     
  21. Lazy
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    Lazy Banned

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    Like I said, if you foreshadow it properly it won't seem that way. Obviously you don't want it to come completely out of nowhere without any warning, because that will seem contrived, like a deus ex machina.


    That's not true, I change my opinion all the time.
     
  22. Gnarly
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    That's not true, I change my opinion all the time.[/QUOTE]

    One of the few.

    I find it really hard debating with you when your picture is the love of my life.
     
  23. Steve89
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    Yes Lazy it can work well if foreshadowed and if the reader can think that something is not quite right about this "man", but I think it could work well in a different way if the reader is aware of it throughout. But I suppose it depends on the response the author wants to achieve.
     
  24. Akyra
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    Akyra New Member

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    Just an idea, but why not do both ? That is to say, surprise the reader, but also let them know the actual gender of the character to add to the suspense ?
    In other words, don't let the reader know from the outset, but let them know after a few chapters for instance. That way you surprise the reader with a nice plot twist, but you still have the suspense of wondering if and when the secret is going to be found out.
     
  25. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    You could really go both ways about this story and I don't think you could go wrong either way.

    On the one hand you could not tell the reader, have the story be about how mysterious the guy is and "he" would sort of function as the fake bad guy in the story... the reader might believe he's behind some scheme and it turns out to be someone else and on top of that maybe this woman dressed up as a man was helping the MC out in secret the entire time (perhaps sometimes she took off her disguise and that's why it wasn't known). I can imagine some kind of scene at the end where the MC is cornered by the actual bad guy and this mysterious person shows up to save her. And then that's when you would reveal what is really going on and who everyone really is. You would just have to have a really good reason for her to want to wear a disguise. The other way of course would be if the reader knew. And then you would have some kind of reverse Mrs. Doubtfire plot where a lot of the suspense in the story is the fact the MC thinks it's a guy when it's really a girl and all the times she nearly gets found out.
     

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