1. Jak of Hearts
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    Jak of Hearts Member

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    Hiding the heroes plan until the end

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Jak of Hearts, Apr 20, 2014.

    I was tooling around with some ideas the other day about the big finish in the climactic showdown. The heroes know of the evil plot and the night before they hatch their own plan to hijack the enemy's plan. My question is how would it work if I didn't want to show them making the plan, but instead just had "I have an idea", then cut away so that the reader doesn't know what the plan is until it's carried through in that climactic moment. Would the reader dislike having this information withheld even though I think it makes for a more powerful scene in the end? I feel like explAining the plan before the battle may steal some of its thunder. Any experiences with this sort of thing? Comments? Thoughts?
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Why not have them make a plan - but it doesn't go according to plan.

    Have them improvise. That way you get to tell your readers what's going to happen, have them anticipate it but when it happens they don't get bored because complications arise forcing another scenario. That way you can keep what you have just tweak it a bit.
     
  3. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/UnspokenPlanGuarantee?from=Main.UnspokenPlan Interesting article about it...

    "Admittedly, the reason for revealing only failed plans to the audience is obvious. Where's the drama in something going wrong if no one knows what was supposed to happen? Conversely, where's the drama in seeing exactly what you were just told would happen?"
     
  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think this kind of thing has certainly been done before. And it can work.

    If the reader doesn't know what the plan is, but knows there IS a plan, they'll be waiting to see what it is and how it unfolds. Of course you lose the suspense you might create if the heroes felt 'stuck' and had no idea what they were going to do. But I think there will be enough intrigue to keep the reader going, if they are told there is, indeed, a 'plan.'

    By now, they've read most of your story, so they have a lot invested in finding out what happens. So they're on board. They also won't know if the plan is going to work. So there is a lot yet to happen.

    As @peachalulu suggested, you could let the reader in on the plan, but then have it all go haywire. That's even more suspenseful, but the other method is intriguing, at the very least. Especially if you manage to incorporate a twist of some kind—something the reader doesn't expect to happen at all.
     
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  5. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    I also agree that this could work very well as long as the reader is aware that there is a plan, and you don't spend too much time drawing it out. Of course, if you find you are going to need many chapters to work it out, then you could always drop hints or tantalizing details as you go to keep the reader interested and grow the idea in their heads that something big is going to happen. The only problem with this approach, I guess, is that you'd better deliver in the end!:) Nothing pisses a reader off more than a complicated, (yet invisible) plan that does not come to fruition.
     
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  6. Jak of Hearts
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    Jak of Hearts Member

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    Alright, that helps a bunch. The way I was thinking of it, I don't think the plan can go "haywire" and still work. As long as the reader won't feel gypped when they aren't told of the plan as its being laid out, then everything should run smoothly. As the article posted above said, "where's the drama in seeing exactly what you were just told would happen?"
     
  7. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    I recently finished a book called "The Fractal Prince" in which the main protagonist does exactly this. The reader was led to believe his retaliation failed, only to have him fool them all in the end. It was more of a heist than an actual battle, so I don't know how relevant that is to your situation. It has been done with success before, so why not?
     
  8. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you want to see how a successful author handles the "hidden plan", read some of Alistair MacLean's novels. His characters do that all the time.
     
  9. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Rule of thumb: reveal the plan and it's bound to go royally south. Don't reveal it and it will more or less work.

    It's not a novel, but I recently marathon-watched The Unit and the writers often write the episodes so that the soldiers are acting, but the viewer doesn't know if they are or not and often e.g. think that someone betrayed the Unit even though it was only made to look like a betrayal to the bad guys.

    So if you can do that kind of stuff with your pov characters without it appearing too much like you're holdingo out information (cos then the reader will smell a rat), it might also be a nice way to surprise the reader.
     
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  10. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    You could also keep the plan vague. Revealing only intriguing bits. There's a interesting battle in the Bible - where Gideon instructs his troops to bring trumpets and jars. ( No weapons that I recall. )Any reader who hasn't read it will be thinking - what's with the jars and trumpets? By the time the event happens the relevance of the jars and trumpets become clear.
     
  11. Jak of Hearts
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    Jak of Hearts Member

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    I know it Works well for television because that was where I got the idea. But because the audience is closer to the MC in a novel I wanted to make sure this wouldn't upset readers. I feel though that the majority here seems to say it's a safe tactic.
     

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