1. aimi_aiko
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    aimi_aiko Contributing Member

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    Hinting about Plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by aimi_aiko, Jun 4, 2011.

    In the story I'm currently working on, I'm keeping the main character from telling her audience or other characters in the story the entire truth of why she is on the run. I really don't want anyone, even the audience to know what's going on with her yet. I plan to "spill the beans" somewhere near the end of the story.

    My question is:

    Is it okay to hint around about the plot, but not actually come out and say it? I want to keep the audience as well as the characters guessing for now.


    If you need more specific information, please let me know and I will explain more in depth.

    Thanks in advance. :)
     
  2. MrNomas
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    MrNomas Member

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    There certainly isn't enough information about the character to answer but, what the hell, here I go.

    There is no reason you can't keep information from your readers/characters. It's done all the time. You just have to make sure the reader (most importantly) doesn't feel cheated. There was a novel I read a long time ago (sorry, can't remember which) where the MC, a lawyer, knew the identity of the real killer (or whatever it was) but didn't tell the reader until he revealed it to the characters in court. As the MC was also the narrator, it was a frustrating thing to read.
     
  3. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    I like the idea of not telling everything to the reader -- it gives the character mystery and the story a layer of intrigue. :)
     
  4. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    If you're trying to write with any level of empathy, in limited, close POV, this is a bad idea. Writers often get all giggly over their ideas to have a 'twist' in the plot, but usually to pull this off you have to distance your readers from the MC since you can't let the reader know what the MC knows. What ends up happening is the MC ends up feeling shallow, the action/interaction ends up seeming contrived (because it is), and all to effectively play a trick on the reader?

    99% of the time it isn't worth it. I've seen it work by great writers who are rare exceptions, but usually this style of story telling is simply because the writer is thinking of themselves more than doing their characters or story justice.

    That doesn't mean you have to give the reader an expository block of information right at the start explaining everything. Far from it. But to write in a close, limited POV and build real connection and empathy for a MC, you have to deliver the truth of their experiences moment by moment, scene by scene, and it will seem contrived if all of a sudden you drop the sort of twist/trick/gimmick you're talking about unless the character was suffering from amnesia.

    Granted, you may not be working in a close, limited POV (at which point I really wish people would give more information since something like the POV can make a huge difference in the vague 'is this okay' sort of questions people ask about writing, heh). If you're writing in an omni pov or something, then shrug, do whatever.
     
  5. wallomrslug
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    wallomrslug Member

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    I much prefer a book where I am making discoveries all the way throughout the story, right up until the end, so from a reader's perspective, i think it is a great idea.
    You need to have a good idea on what you're keeping back and what you are hinting towards though. I think, when the full secret is revealed, the reader needs to have a sense of 'oooooh yes, now I see' rather than 'what the hell!?'
    There have to be decent enough hints throughout to allow the reader to piece it all together at the end.
    Don't just thrust in a random revelation that the reader had no chance of guessing at.
    Overall, without knowing the ins and outs of your story, I personally am all for being kept moderately in the dark through the book. but the revelation must be satisfying enough to make that journey worth it.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It is called foreshadowing, and is a widely used and respected element of good storytelling. The trick is to keep it subtle. There are few things worse for a story than ham-handed foreshadowing.
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Tom Clancy's foreshadowing often strikes me as very ham-handed.
     
  8. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    I personally think what the OP is talking about is quite different from foreshadowing. It's tricky because it's foreshadowing a contrived admission of relevant character history. So, yes, it's foreshadowing a 'big reveal,' but imo foreshadowing is beside the point. If I expertly foreshadowed "It was all just a dream!" very rarely would it feel any less contrived, gimmicky and groan-worthy by the reader.

    I've seen stories where the character is so caught up in moment by moment survival they aren't thinking about the past, perhaps even why they're on the run. Usually, though, if something big has happened in the past we may not get all the details at once, and we may be getting only relevant hints here rand there (as the MC thinks about them), but we won't get writerly hints that then culminate in a writerly 'aHAH, see, dear reader, he was crazy all along, or it was a dream all along, or the past history I kept from you was relevant all along and now is irony now that I've revealed it.'

    Usually this feels contrived, as the character stands their rolling their eyes, having had to go along with the writers scheme and pretend they weren't thinking about that very fact the whole time.

    Very often writers do this because they're so enamored with themselves and their clever ideas. Very often stories are very improved by not being coy or contrived, and instead giving the reader a fully empathetic experience. Almost always, giving the truth of a character experience any given moment of a scene is the strongest way to deliver the story and answers all the 'what should I do' sort of questions.

    Then it becomes a question of which scenes/moments to include to build the story the writer wants to deliver, which is already a stronger question that how do you con or trick the reader so you can have the big reveal that your MC conveniently had amnesia about for the duration of the story before the big reveal.

    If it's a first person reminiscent story, meaning the character themselves is telling the story, then it is more plausible to do, but imo the effect is no less annoying. It's just slightly more palatable because it's a character that becomes the annoying writer, not the writer. It's usually the same principles, though, in that way that it becomes about a clever idea or trick on the reader instead of just delivering an engaging, honest, empathetic experience (which is what contemporary fiction is often built on).

    edit: Want to add I found most of the OP a bit awkward in the sense that a character revealing their past to other characters is a plot point, while the writer (or a telling-their-own-story narrator) revealing their past to the reader is not.

    My advice in most of these situations (though again it's hard to comment to such vague 'is this okay' questions is tough, as it changes per story) is to treat them as such. Build up to the POV character revealing their past to the characters by allowing the reader in for full understanding of that past. Meaning, we understand the struggles of the character in the present because in part due to her past, and then also experience the struggle of then having to reveal that past to other characters. This is the way to have one's cake and eat it too, without alienating the reader, and instead bringing that reader in fully into an empathetic connection with the POV character.
     
  9. TyUnglebower
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    TyUnglebower New Member

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    The key is to keep the reader interested, and there are a million ways to do that. Frankly I think anytime someone can try something new that is not in fashion, it has a good chance of succeeding, if marketed well.
     

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