1. Blips
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    Blips Member

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    Purposely supressing information...

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Blips, Aug 19, 2010.

    Through my searching I found this thread but it wasn't entirely relevant to my problem.

    I'm conveying the notion that someone dies (I have already written that) but in reality the person is merely sedated during an attack. His body is then transported by the attacker and the attacker's actions are followed closely for the remainder of the chapter.

    What I want to do is vaguely hint that the attacker is carrying something on their shoulder and keep the reader assuming the man is dead (in the name of surprising the reader the following chapter). My problem is I fear the reader will be too confused when the truth is unveiled unless I devote an entire paragraph explaining how he was saved / carried.

    What are your thoughts on doing this sort of thing to the reader? Bad habit or fun if done correctly (and sparingly)?
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am doing it over a series of novels I have a Great Skua not even my husband knows his true identity:) I do I know how it happened lol

    Its a bit like Snape in Harry Potter we didn't know whether he was good or bad.

    In my first novel I kept the identity of the killer a complete secret until the last two chapters.

    It is the premise several good detective novels.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Dan Brown did something similar in The Lost Symbol, where it was made to seem that his main character was dead but revealed a couple of pages later that he had not in fact died and was totally fine.

    Personally, it made me want to burn the book. It was way too far-fetched, served no purpose other than to create a cheap moment of tension and was just generally a bad idea, badly executed.
     
  4. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Better to give an entire para of explanations than making the readers feel cheated.

    If done right, a twist in the plot is always welcome. Doing it right, however, is the key. As for example in your case, the body/man has to be inside something.. like a coffin, otherwise if there is body-contact as they carry the man, they will surely feel the man's pulse. Later when you say the man was not actually death but sedated, the readers might feel cheated. In short, when you finally reveal your twist, the reader shouldn't go 'Are you kidding me?'
     
  5. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    You don't have to give a terribly detailed explanation if the seeds are planted early. In plainer English, if the villain had a use for the "dead" character's body -- to use his fingerprints to frame him, to use his blood for magic, to take something from his pockets or just to steal his wallet and jewelry -- then the Point-of-View character has good reason to think the "corpse" isn't alive just because the bad guy is hauling him off.

    If the P-o-V character sees the "dead" character "die" -- that is, sees the villain attack, or sees blood on the "dead" guy's clothing, or believes that the villain is ruthless enough to kill the "dead" guy -- then it's easier to believe and absorb.

    As long as 1) the P-o-V character has good reason to think the "corpse" is actually dead, and 2) the villain has a good reason to take actions (sedation, stabbing, choking into unconsciousness) that would look from distance like murder, and 3) the P-o-V character is delayed plausibly, or otherwise prevented from getting a close look at the body, then this sort of "information suppressing" could be really, really awesome. There are all kinds of ways to spin this into an amazing and tension-building surprise.

    Just a few ideas, though obviously you probably already have a pretty good idea of what will happen. What if the P-o-V character is obligated to avenge the "dead" character, and so pursues the villain more relentlessly than the P-o-V guy would have if he'd just known the victim was still alive? What if the P-o-V character pushes himself harder to catch the villain because he begins to worry that the villain is planning to desecrate the corpse? Or maybe other characters react, too, especially if the P-o-V character tells other people what he thinks he saw.
     
  6. Blips
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    Blips Member

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    Yeah, withholding information to some degree would definitely be needed for mystery novels / detective novels. For a simple example: describing a murder in detail while keeping the murderer's identity a secret.

    But in my case it feels more like trickery. There is also the problem that vaguely hinting upon the details may actually confuse the reader - making them think they missed something from earlier. If I were to say something like "... turning from the scene, she strides confidently back to the shadows - the package held tightly over her right shoulder." Then the reader might think "what package? where did this package come from?" and proceed to skim through previous pages looking for an answer.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    As HeinleinFan pointed out, this is a point-of-view issue. If you're writing in first person, or even third-person-limited, then as long as the narrator character believes the guy's dead, you can go ahead and tell the reader he's dead without having to use language that allows for the possibility that he's still alive. The narrator character is then as surprised as the reader is when it turns out the guy is still alive.

    If you're writing in third-person-omniscient, it's tougher. Then you are deliberately lying to the reader by saying the guy's dead when you know, because you're omniscient, that he isn't. The "unreliable narrator" technique is popular, but I can't think of an instance in which it was successfully used with a third-person-omniscient POV.
     
  8. Blips
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    Yeah I'm writing from a 3rd-person omniscient POV. Technically I never straight up say "and then he dies". I just heavily imply it.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I suppose you could just have a character comment that he has no pulse. That doesn't mean he's dead, but will give everybody ample reason to believe he is. It really just means that the character can't detect the guy's pulse.
     
  10. Blips
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    Blips Member

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    I throw the character out a window on the 80th floor of an apartment tower. But making the reader think he's dead is not my problem - I've got that covered.
    My issue is having his unconscious body carried through the city by his attacker without ever saying the attacker has him over her shoulder.
     
  11. Blips
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    I haven't read the book but based on what I've seen in the movie Fightclub, I'd imagine that reader is nearly constantly being fed only a fraction of what is truly happening.

    So with that in mind I think I will attempt to keep in the minor plot twist and see how it goes.
     
  12. Sang Hee
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    Sang Hee Contributing Member

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    If you're unsure about how to handle it then don't do it.
    But if you have to go on then I'd suggest to finish it as you planned and watch the reactions. Sometimes people don't get confused when you think they would and vice versa.
     

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