1. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    Protagonist with a secret

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by stubeard, May 13, 2012.

    What are people's thoughts on having a character through whom the story is told harbouring a secret? One of my characters - a young woman - is the brother of the protagonist. She knows this, but she doesn't want to reveal it to the rest of the characters, and neither do I really want to reveal it to the reader, until a particular point in the story. Is this doable? Or would it just be better to reveal this information to the reader early on? I guess it would, as the search for her brother is her motivation, so it would be best to make this clear. Have I just answered my own question? I tend to do that a lot...
     
  2. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    My lead has a secret. Your lead harbors hers, my lead doesn't even know it.

    Don't you think it's fun to be involved with a good story, perhaps with lots of red herrings and misdirection, leading to the feeling of "I'm sorry the book ended"?

    If all of the aspects of the tale fall like dominoes at the usual time, does the reader lose interest with a formula story?

    Yes, I know that some readers don't like change. They want their heroes and villains to enter and leave the stage right on cue. But is that what you want?
     
  3. Kay Lesgo
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    Kay Lesgo Member

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    It's fine to keep secrets. But you better make me love her or im gonna be pissed when she finally spills :)
     
  4. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    Quick questions, to clarify, so one of your MCs is transgender or something? You said SHE is the BROTHER of the protagonist. I'm trying to figure out if this is a typo or not.
    Regardless of the answer, my only suggestion if you are going to do this is that it will have to be very cleverly plotted. I think you need to throw the reader off with appropriate red herrings (although I'm quite fond of those, so maybe that isn't necessary). Additionally what genre are you writing? As some genres would work better with something like this than others. What is the narrative voice? first-person? third? That may also effect how or if you are able to do this. If it is first-person, I would imagine it would be fairly difficult, but it would be doable. There's a YA paranormal text that does this REALLY well it's called Evernight by Claudia Gray. Anyways, you don't find out the protagonists a vampire until somewhere between the middle of the book when you also find out her love interest is a covert slayer. And speaking of red herrings, you actually think the slayer is the vampire. She comments on his speed and other things that drop these false clues. It has to be one of the biggest surprises I have yet to experience reading YA.
     
  5. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    This, and I can't figure out who is who and who knows what? But let me try... So, she, the protagonist, harbors the secret that her brother, who is missing, is a transgender. If this is it, then it'll be one hell of a surprise for the readers (there, you have a very good reason for not revealing the secret to the readers). A very good reason is important otherwise the readers feel sort of cheated and will distrust the writer.

    You seem to suggest closed third person POV, then the degree of difficulty will not vary too much from first person.
     
  6. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    Yes it's doable and recently I've watched a series from my country's local TV in which it was done brilliantly. Go for it.
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    It can just come across as an irritating/cheapo plot device to hold over the reader unless the secret is done well, gets sufficient build up and/or provides a really interesting twist. Careful of anti-climaxes or coy shying away from revealing the secret at obvious moments, or when the char is thinking. And IMO, don't have interruptions just as s/he is about to spill the beans, therefore delaying the revelation, that's so tacky as a page turning device.
     
  8. CrimsonReaper
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    CrimsonReaper Active Member

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    Don't hide things from the reader.

    Seriously. That is my honest advice Stubeard. Plenty of mysteries have tried this scenario (with the narrator really the killer...dum dum dum...) and it was viewed as a cheap trick even in the earliest stories. If you are doing first-person in particular, then VERY FEW people have the skill to pull this off without looking like a hack. And even those are split-decisions. A first-person viewpoint can be WRONG. They can think they know something, then discover they were just flat out mistaken. But to have the narrator consciously hide a key aspect of their history/personality from the reader is a cheap tactic trying to pass itself off as clever. It is not. Third-person limited has slightly more leeway in this situation, but I would still say no. And if you are doing third person omniscient then clearly this is not an option.

    If I was reading something like this and you revealed your big "twist" I would laugh, toss the book, and never buy anything from that author again. Probably bad mouth the book to friends as well.
     
  9. Gonissa
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    Gonissa Contributing Member

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    While it's usually best to have your narrator/perspective character be someone who is open and relatable to your readers, you can have them harbor secrets or even lie to their readers. In a first person journal novel I'm doing, my MC is directly lying to the readers. Trick is, it's pretty obvious to the readers that she's lying, making them wonder about how reliable her perspective is when it comes to all the events around her. She's clearly biased. I'm not entirely sure if this would work if the readers didn't know she was lying, however.
     

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