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  1. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Should the reader know?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jwatson, Sep 11, 2009.

    My first chapter lets the readers know that the antagonist will be interacting with the protagonist for a good portion of my story, but my pro does not know this. Is it okay for me to let the readers know though? Even though it won't come to them as a surprise when my protagonist finally realizes he's been with the enemy the whole time?

    Would they be anticipating what will happen when my main character finally realizes? Or should I just not let them know altogether? I particularly like how it is now, but I'm not sure it would be widely accepted...
    Any thoughts are welcome, thanks
     
  2. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    I think it's important to have a clearly identified antagonist - e.g. Vader/Sauron/Etcetera - however I think there should be a lot of room for mystery and discovery.
     
  3. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    It really depends on what you hope to achieve, what kind of reaction you want. If surprizes mattered at much as we sometimes think they do, nobody would go to see Romeo and Juliet because we all know they die at the end.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I think something like this boils down to author preference. As the author, if you feel one way is better than the other because it improves your novel, then I say trust your own judgment.

    If you want to surprise your readers, then you should only let them know what the protagonist knows. To be honest, most of the books I've read only let the readers know what the MC knows. That is probably why I am biased and believe that the reader should know only as much as the MC.
     
  5. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    thanks
    I think I will leave it until I am completely done revising it. Even then I still want to keep it like this but I'm just a little doubtful.
     
  6. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    I quite like it how you have it constructed now. The entertainment of the pro's obliviousness coupled with the anticipated revelation would keep me reading. Though, as some have said, it seems to matter only as preference. Good luck.
     
  7. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    if you can suprise the reader at the end, why not do it?
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that could only be true if the story is told in the first person, from the mc's pov... and most good fiction isn't... because it's so limiting in what can be revealed, is why the more info-accessible third is the approach most common/accepted/enjoyed by publishers and readers... is there some reason why you prefer to read mostly first person novels?

    jw...
    most novels reveal info and include scenes that the protag isn't privy to... in fact, that's how suspense is built up in most mysteries and thrillers... because we're allowed to know things the hero or heroine doesn't, we're thus anxiously waiting for them to find out... hence, the suspense...

    so, go ahead with what you started... you really won't know till you come to the end, whether it worked, or not...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  9. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    There were also this series of popular murder mysteries called Columbo. It wasn't a whodunit. It was "How's he gonna catch him?" We always know who the criminal is. The fun is watching the detective try to catch him and prove it.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, the Columbo formula focused on the battle of wits between intelligent adversaries instead of the investigator's ability to solve the puzzle.
     
  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Sorry, I should have phrased that better. What I meant to say was that most novels I have read don't have it so that the reader knows what the antagonist is doing. In the case of the OP, the reader wouldn't know that the protagonist is interacting with the antagonist and would be "surprised." In other words, most of the novels I have read have it so that the reader is "surprised" rather than knowing of both the protagonist's and antagonist's motives.
     
  12. Evelyanin
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    Evelyanin Senior Member

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    I think both ways would work. I can't count how many times I've read a book where I know who the bad guy is, but the mc is completely oblivious to the fact. They interact together and I can't help screaming at the book, "DON'T DO IT!!!! HE'S THE EVIL MURDERER!!!!! DON'T GET OUT OF THE CAR, DON......ugh.... he did it. Stupid guy..... IT WAS SO OBVIOUS!!! WHY DIDN'T YOU SEE THAT!!!"
    It gets really tense on my part. The only problem with something like this is that your MC doesn't seem like mister smart guy anymore. You know whats going on, and you cover your eyes when you go somewhere where you know you don't want to go. The other way around, you could get pulled into a volcano and at the same time be completely unaware of the fact.
    The two perspectives give a completely different feel to the story. So just ask yourself, how do YOU want it to feel?
     
  13. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Great input, thanks a lot everyone! :)
     
  14. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I love first person novels.

    You can create suspense by telling us who the bad guy is. Oh, no don't go in there. It's how a lot of suspense is created in horror movies. But you can still have a twist. He/she has an unexpected, yet hinted at accomplice.
     
  15. SayWhatNow?
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    SayWhatNow? Senior Member

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    Personally, I write to make the reader question everything and eventaully reveal it in a way that makes the reader go "darn it, I knew that." But, as pointed out earlier, both ways would work. What it really comes down to is what you're good with.
     
  16. AmandaC
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    AmandaC Member

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    Sometimes withholding information makes things more interesting. Make them guess, let them be surprised. I try to show things like that without spelling it out when I'm writing.
     
  17. Smithy
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    Smithy Senior Member

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    If you're going down the dramatic irony route, the one thing I would beware of is that if you build up the reader's anticipation toward the moment when the MC realises he has been played for a fool, and confronts the antagonist in his true colours for the first time, they will expect a confrontation that will pay off that was worth the wait. While I'm sure that it is, if for whatever reason that expectation is disappointed you will annoy a great many people.
     
  18. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would say just hint at it, indirectly. Don't make things plain, because plain is boring. You could also run the risk of having the reader think the MC is naive or stupid for not knowing what the reader knows - even if it's not fair to your MC to think so, people might do it anyway.

    Have you never cried out in frustration over a horror movie -- "Nooo, you stupid cow, don't go into the basement! He's down there!" It works well for suspense, but at the cost of respect for the character.
     
  19. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Y'know, I didn't quite like the way Columbo worked. Sure, it was fun to see him solve it, and a lot of the clues he gathered wouldn't have been as revealing (I.E. "Oh, he figured out [this] or [that] so that antagonist is in for it now!") but he ALWAYS latched DIRECTLY onto the murderer and rode him until all of the evidence was found for a conviction.

    On the other hand, as Maia noted, if the reader knows, and the reader knows that the protagonist DOESN'T know, then suspense is built, but only in the correct situation.
     
  20. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Aspects of the murders in Columbo were always kept hidden though. The real motive, for example. So even though you knew full well who the murderer was, some parts remained a mystery - beside the big querstion of how Columbo would solve it.
     
  21. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    If you are a fan of anime, you'll notice that seem to be one of the reoccuring subjects in it. For example, with the anime series Naruto, the main character- Naruto- befriends Sasuke who is his arch rival in more ways than one. At first it all seems harmless, but it's easy for the readers to tell that Sasuke, and many other in the series as they come along, is the antagonist. It adds a bit of drama to the story and sometimes locks the reader's attention.

    Some series that obviously points these factors out are as follows;
    Naruto
    Spiral
    Shuga Chara
    07 Ghost
    The rest elude me at the moment, but I suggest you look these ones out. They can be found at http://www.onemanga.com or http://www.mangafox.com
     
  22. Nackl of Gilmed
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    Nackl of Gilmed Member

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    Death Note is another excellent example of that. The genius who has the Death Note - a notebook that allows you to kill anyone just by writing down their full name - befriends the genius leading the investigation, trying to discover what his real name is so he can kill him. The whole time the viewer is kept aware of each character's intentions, and the tension comes from seeing which will outsmart the other, and how.
     
  23. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    Thank you, oddly enough I couldn't remember Death Note when I meant to point it out.
     

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