1. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Hiding Information in a Close POV

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Steerpike, Jun 3, 2015.

    I have finished a first draft of a story. Third person, close point of view. The main character is an assassin who is highly sought after in certain circles because she's known to be an honest dealer and always completes a job once she has taken it on. In fact, she has cultivated such a reputation that she can ask for, and receive, payment for a job in advance.

    About a decade prior to this story, she took a job that turned out to be not as she'd quite assumed once it got underway. More specifically, it turns out that innocent people around the target will be killed. Having taken the job, she carries it out, but she vows to go after the employer who withheld the details from her. He's one step ahead of her, and she ends up having to flee the area.

    When the story starts, she's back in town and she's trying to take out the former employer. Some old contacts feed her information about the target, who has not been seen publicly for the last ten years and is hard to get close to. During the course of her surveillance, she learns that the person masquerading as her former employer is really her original target of ten years ago. He knows she's back, and he has set a trap to get his revenge. Her old employer is dead. The assassin decides to move ahead anyway, because she always finishes a job, and hey, this guy is still alive.

    Here is where the question comes in:

    The character learns about midway through the story who this guy really is. But it isn't stated overtly, so the reader may not know. In fact, my intent is that the reader isn't likely to figure it out at this point. So there are two revelations as the story comes to an end:

    1) the guy pretending to be the old employer is really the old target from ten years ago. The reader doesn't know that the main character knows, and it looks like the tables have been turned;

    BUT:

    2) Shortly thereafter it is revealed that in fact the main character does know and she was ready for it and has come to take this guy down.

    At no point is false information given to the reader. In fact, I don't really even withhold information, it's just that the information given is ambiguous, and the natural reading of it up until the end is that the old employer is still alive and the assassin is after him. Once the end of the story is reached, however, suddenly all of that prior information takes on a new slant and the reader will, I think, be able to pinpoint the time and place where the assassin realized this was really her original target, the one long thought dead, and the reader will also find clues along the way that she knows who this guy really is, that she's walking into a trap, and that she is ready for it .

    As a reader, if you're in a close point of view, how do you feel about information that is selective in its presentation, and that, while truthful, is ambiguous so that the reader is likely (and intended) to draw the wrong conclusions until the end of the story?
     
  2. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Wait, does the reader know that she didn't actually kill her original target or no? Because I feel like A) original target isn't dead, B) original employer is dead, and C) original target is now masquerading as original employer might be a bit too much to hit us with at the very end. Do we find out that the person pretending to be her original employer isn't really her original employer and we're just left to wonder who it really is, or is that something only she knows too, until the end?

    It all sounds very shady which I like the sound of for a story about an assassin, I just worry the end might be too twisty if too much is left out until then, you know what I mean?
     
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  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @izzybot

    No, the reader thinks the original target died, as does the main character. She only figures out about halfway through the story the he must have survived and taken the place of her old employer, who was a rival of the original target. The reader only finds out when the new target (who is really the old target in disguise) tries to spring his trap on the main character. The idea is that the reader will go "oh, crap, it's him! Now she's in trouble!" Shortly thereafter, it turns out that she already knew this and was ready for it.

    I'm trying to find the line between making it obvious by giving away too much information over the course of the story, and making it so that the reader throws his kindle at the wall when the revelation happens :)
     
  4. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Hmm. Honestly I think it's dependent on how you write it. It does seem like a lot to reveal at the end but I don't think it'd be impossible to pull off. It definitely sounds very cool. I know that a revelation like that would make me go OOOOOHH and reread and be absolutely delighted if I realized that the author hadn't lied to me about the facts, only misled me. Sounds tricky.
     
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  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks @izzybot

    I think that's right. It's going to come down to whether I can pull this off. I'm curious whether any readers have an outright aversion to the idea. After I go back and do an initial round of editing I'll have to get some beta readers to see if it works - people who don't know the plot and can't be influenced by that knowledge.
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I sorta wish you'd just posted the story without the info so I could see what my real reaction would be. Because I really can't tell without reading it and it sounds like a fun read.

    Anyway, my first instinct says it'll be fine, simply cus ambiguious info isn't false info and if it was I who drew the wrong conclusion, then when things are revealed it should serve as a particularly good AHA! moment. Just as long as it doesn't confuse the reader who'd assumed wrong all this time :)
     
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  7. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    It doesn't seem too bad! Sounds like a great AHA moment, as long as the actual ending isn't 100% ambiguous. I always hate a book that cuts off the ending and you're supposed to "fill in the blank" with your imagination.
     
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  8. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    If it is close 3rd, I the reader really expect to know what the character knows. I'd be feeling cheated by a late revelation that the MC knew something so important.
     
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  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You know what she knows, but because of how it is presented you, as reader, are likely to interpret it wrong. If that makes a difference.
     
  10. TJtheWildChild
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    TJtheWildChild New Member

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    So I was looking at your question, it reminded me exactly of a post I read on Helping Writers Become Authors.

    http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/storys-climax-4/

    I'd have to say I agree with her opinion. Basically she calls this false suspense and says that your readers probably won't appreciate this sort of let down and that it removes any possibility of true suspense. It's like if I was climbing up this huge mountain (or so I thought), the camera is in close and I'm on the edge of a cliff. But then the camera zooms out and the "cliff" is only a foot of the ground. I'm going to be quite annoyed, walk away, and likely never think of that story again unlike those stories where I really was dragged to the edge of a 50 foot cliff of suspense that I later go back to in my mind over and over again.
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks for the input, everyone.

    @TJtheWildChild I was thinking along those same lines when I first started the story, but I've found that there are writers who do this sort of thing. Jeffrey Deaver is probably one of the most successful thriller writers around, multiple awards, three movies made from his novels, etc., and I've read some short stories of his that do exactly this sort of thing. The thing about it is, Jeffrey Deaver is very, very good at what he does. So it seems like there is a way to do it without making the reader feel cheated, or annoying them, it's just a matter of whether I can do it.
     
  12. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Steerpike - you've surely got to post the story now? :bigtongue: I wanna see how you pull it off!
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Only the first draft is done, and this one needs tweaking. Plus it is going out to markets after, so I don't know I'll post it in the showcase. Maybe by PM, unless it ends up being a disaster that I can't show anyone haha.
     
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  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    You might want to read Lesley Glaister's novel Nina Todd Has Gone. It's the most masterful twist given by a POV character I've ever read. It is a corker, and done so very skillfully. You might pick up a few pointers.

    You are treading a thin line here, and I think you know it. You pull it off, and people will go away gasping, and feel very pleased to have been along for such a well-crafted ride. You don't pull it off, and you'll have people feeling cheated and annoyed. I would definitely try your finished draft out on several beta readers, without letting on what the story will do. See what their reaction is. Then you'll know if it works.
     
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  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    @Steerpike - if it turns out it doesn't work, you can tweak it a few different ways. I'm thinking fast here, but...

    1) you can let the reader in on the secret much sooner. This reduces the mystery, but might well increase the suspense, as the reader watches how the assassin copes with what she knows.

    2) you can deliver the story (or part of the story) from a different POV. That would probably take a lot more re-writing, but a change of POV can really open up a story sometimes.
     
  16. TJtheWildChild
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    TJtheWildChild New Member

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    I think part of pulling it off is that if someone were to go back and reread the book they would have to see that this was the case all along and they just missed it due to your ability to made it a bit hidden. You don't want to do a complete fake out where the hero is pretending basically to themselves that they don't know the truth if they then suddenly act as if they do. They can do things that make the antag think this is what they believe, but yes as others have said if you do it right you could pull it off. I suppose beta readers would be very helpful in letting you know if you succeeded or not.
     

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