1. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

    Aug 23, 2013
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    Showing the reader something that the narrator doesn't know?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Simpson17866, Jan 4, 2015.

    Both of my beta readers found the same problems in my first draft of a short horror story. It sounds like I was able to address at least one well enough of these in my second draft (introducing too many characters too quickly), but I hadn't executed some of the supernatural elements in a way that made sense in the first draft, and both betas said that was still a problem in the re-write.


    The story starts with the protagonist John driving home, terrified by a new serial killer that he's just heard about in his area. When he gets to his house, he sees a stranger sneaking in to his next door neighbor's house. At first, he tries to write this off, but when his girlfriend calls the neighbor and doesn't get an answer, John goes next door to check in person. He finds the neighbor murdered, and then gets attacked himself before he can call for help.

    John manages to take the killer down, but discovers a child in the house and becomes convinced that she has been kidnapped by the killer. He comes to the conclusion that the girl shouldn't be found by the police, so he steals the dead neighbor's car and takes the girl to the house of a friend he knows to be out of town.

    Problem: throughout the story, I'd been peppering the story with some asides in italics that, at first, the reader is supposed to believe are John's own thoughts:
    As the story progresses, he starts acting making decisions based on information he could reasonably have learned on his own, but gradually veers into areas that he shouldn't know about:
    The story ends when the friend's son surprises John by bringing a few college friends to the house:
    When I wrote this, I originally thought that the twist of
    the girl having supernatural mind-control powers would make it possible to accept her also having supernatural foreknowledge powers
    , but both of my beta readers said that the connection wasn't as clear as I'd hoped: it still didn't make sense that
    John would know / be told the friend's safe combination, or the the girl would even know about him before he killed her previous puppet and ran into her physically.

    They didn't seem to mind my explanation out-of-story, but they didn't have any tips for making it more clear in-story without spelling it out directly (which none of us think would make sense). Does anybody here have an idea for a "clear+subtle" middle ground between "clear+clumsy" and "subtle+opaque" that we haven't thought of?
  2. !ndigo

    !ndigo Member

    May 26, 2014
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    I read the first few thoughts as being his own and I think it's fine if it stays that way. The little girl is gradually invading his thoughts right? But he can still have his own too.

    As it is currently written, the problem seems to be that there's no shift when the girl starts to take over. All the italicized bits still seem like he's just remembering thing's he's already knew or that they really are his own thoughts.

    I think it might make it a bit more obvious if you make John surprised by some of the information or show the girl acting weird.

    John saw Linda’s safe next to the bed. He racked his brain trying to remember where Linda kept the combination to the safe. He knew it was written inside one of her books, he went to the bookshelf and began to slowly flip through pages.

    The girl grew impatient and scowled at John's back.


    Somewhat startled, John realized he already knew the combination. He opened the safe and saw that Linda had left her service firearm behind.

    I think you probably want to make John accept the weirdness but you want your reader to question it, not to the point where its totally obvious and predictable but just enough that its unsettling.

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