1. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    To Reveal or Not to Reveal

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by KaTrian, Nov 21, 2013.

    This is basically a two-part question, and the first part is more closely related to character development, but the second question is even more important so I'll just post this here anyway.

    Older members probably know by now @T.Trian and I write together, but I’m saying this up front anyway so newer members won’t think I have two personalities whenever I use “we” instead of “I.”

    1) I know this is first and foremost a matter of how it’s executed, and I’m quite confident we are doing it in a reasonably realistic way, but how would you, in general, react to a female character who falsely accuses a male character of physically abusing her so as to control him? Is there potential for this to be an immediate turn-off to a big portion of readers because it can be perceived as something that questions the credibility of real abuse cases? Which would be a pity because firstly, these things happen, rare as they are, and secondly, there are portrayals of actual abuse as well, this being an isolated case within the story.

    2) Now, about the plot. Which one do you think would be better or even the correct way to do it as per the Big Book of Plotting: Is it better that the reader knows right from the start the abuse didn’t happen, so the tension comes from finding out how the conflict is resolved? Or would it be better to leave the reader in the dark about the truth as well so they wouldn’t know either who’s lying until the third crucial character in this mess learns the truth (a woman the man has a budding relationship with)?
    To reveal or not to reveal?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm. Good questions.

    The first one...I'm not sure how falsely accusing somebody of physical abuse would allow her to 'control' him. Is she just accusing him to his face and/or friends, or has she reported him to the police? If she's reported him to the police, I reckon the matter is out of her hands, and controlling him will no longer be an option. He's likely to be in jail? Or am I missing something here.

    I try not to be too judgemental, but my first reaction is to really dislike a character who would do something like this, unless there are STRONG emotional reasons to 'excuse' her behaviour. I can't think of anything much worse for a guy than to be falsely accused of something like this, at least in the present day, where such accusations are taken seriously.

    As to the plot ...this is the kind of issue I faced in my own novel, and creating a prologue (after initially writing it without one) that lets readers in on the truth. That simple changed turned my story from something of a mystery, to one of suspense. Suspense, in that the reader KNOWS the truth, and is waiting for the shit to hit the fan as a result of it. In the first instance, where I kept the truth from the readers, I realised after getting initial feedback that people were treating it as a mystery ...why is this guy behaving the way he does, etc?

    So ...it depends on what you want readers to do. Do you want them to be trying to guess the truth? Is that the point of the book? Or do you want them to be observing how the girl's lies affect the rest of the characters and the story—and wondering will she or will she not get her comeuppance at the end? If comeuppance is what she gets...

    Gotta run. Dentist appointment...urgh...
     
  3. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    I think that's a question that can only be answered on an individual basis. We all look for different pay offs.

    For myself, I'd rather you stalled the big reveal. But... I think I'd appreciate a few little subtle inconsistencies, so that when the reveal comes, it doesn't come off as a 'jump the shark' kinda deal. Plant a few seeds of doubt... I love that feeling when a story arc comes full circle, leaving me with that, 'I fucking knew it!' feeling. There's advantages, in terms of cringe factor, from the reader knowing all along, especially when one can see the flawed thinking of characters relating to it, but there's something rewarding about having fathomed it out for oneself.

    Personally, I wouldn't give it much thought. It's not like you are setting out to trivialise the issue. (And there's no denying that these cases exist, so to me to pretend otherwise is as big an issue.) The only caution I would advise, is that it may cast the character in such an unfavourable light that the reader's relationship with her may suffer, but then again, that's up to you as writer to make us understand why she chose to do what she did. Not knowing the character, I don't know how important it is, in the grand scheme of things, for me to like and relate to her.
     
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  4. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    1). I don't think this sort of thing is that uncommon. It's definitely not offensive.
    2). So is the third crucial character the MC? Are you switching POVs or what?

    Don't ask, but I was watching this cable movie on lifetime, with the guy from Dawson's Creek. It was about this teacher who switches towns because of a rape case against him. I didn't see the whole movie but I think he won that case. However, somehow he's charged with rape again in a different town. Again, didn't see the beginning so not sure if we're supposed to know he's innocent or not from the start. All I know is I didn't. There was a third girl like with your story, who is sort of forming a relationship with him but isn't sure either. Of course she helps him clear his name, and it turns out the whole thing was a conspiracy and the girls were lying.
     
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  5. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    No problem with the plot, false accusations happen. It certainly wouldn't turn me off reading. But don't expect me to like that woman. :)

    As for revealing, I think both ways could work like you described them, and I really can't say which one is "better". But - what kind of POV are you using? If it's from the POV of the third person, then I'd prefer to give the reader the same information as this person has, so they can follow her view of the situation.
     
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  6. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Thank you, guys, this has already clarified the dilemma quite a bit.

    @jannert
    Thanks a heap! Hopefully the appointment goes well!

    Sorry, I didn't disclose all the details 'cause I wasn't sure if it's all that relevant and monster posts are likely to get tl,dr comments :oops:
    She has a good reason not to report it to the police, in fact, that's what she keeps hanging above his head, "do as I say, or I'll tell the cops. Who do you think they're more inclined to believe?" The effed up system would in all likelihood swallow him; no straight-and-narrow police procedures in the world we created. She also uses the false accusations to alienate the other woman from him, who won't go to the police either because she 1) fell in love with him before this crap surfaced 2) is a crook and distrustful of the cops.

    Reasons; partly revenge because he's rejected her twice before, partly a totally insane attempt to make him hers. She drives for control, but actually loses it completely, and is unable to stop herself after the snowball's started rolling downhill. So in that sense it's about control.

    There are indeed reasons for her behavior, and so far the feedback we've gotten has been such that our betas don't know if they should hate her or pity her. Even our characters aren't sure once they learn where she's coming from.


    All good questions we need to find answers to. We have to mull this over, since all the pros and cons are still a little fuzzy. This also happens to be something of a secondary conflict that created itself amidst the main plot and main struggles of the characters.


    @obsidian_cicatrix : thanks for your input, I like your ideas, and this is a good point:

    The thing we don't want to do is fully demonize her. Most people have their reasons for malicious behavior, and hopefully what we've got for her puts her actions in context, explains them, so it's not black-and-white malice for the sake of having an antagonist.

    Yup, she's also a POV character and there're POV switches. The story's written in 3rd person limited.

    Hm, could check that one out, thanks.

    Big thanks, everyone :love:
     
  7. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks a lot for all the suggestions, folks, great ideas here.
    Just to add a few things to what Kat already explained:

    She basically wants money from him and that he'd take her to his home country since due to her background (having been busted for drug possession and soliciting), the only way she is allowed to enter the country, is through a citizen (such are the immigration laws in the story).

    She doesn't want to take it to the cops although she threatens to do so, but she does tell his love interest that he raped her so that the two would never get together so she wouldn't have competition when it comes to his money.


    We'd like the reader to wonder if the guy is guilty or if the girl is just a liar and a good actress (the truth will be revealed in the next chapter, though). This whole situation is just a side plot, however, and among one of the things we do to show what kind of a character the girl is. We also want to make the reader sort of wonder whether they should hate or pity her because she's suffered a lot of real abuse since childhood, she's essentially homeless / has no family or any social safety net, has problems with drugs, has a few rather prominent personality disorders that affect her behavior etc, i.e. things that sorta kinda justify her more "evil" actions that essentially stem from serious despair brought on by her previous experiences and her current circumstances, we don't want to demonize the abused or those with mental disorders, the homeless etc, just to show a character that's ambiguous when it comes to the good vs. evil -issue.

    That being said, despite her schemes and shenanigans, we don't want her to appear purely evil, but we also don't want to do the "suffering saint" -thing, and it'd be nice if the reader has to weigh things in their mind before they decide whether to sympathize with or hate the character. We're guessing she will come off as a pretty despicable person for most of the story as we reveal her more serious problems, her true motivations, in the very last chapter, things that will possibly show her actions in a new, somewhat more understandable light.

    Hope things go well with the dentist. Next month it's my turn to go sit in a comfy chair while my mouth is filled with all kinds of crap. Good times...
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    See, this is where I'd tread carefully. If the reader is simply 'wondering' if the guy is guilty or not, this wondering will likely become the focus for the story. It becomes a 'whodunnit' without a murder.

    If, however, we know she's lying at the outset, then we can work on what kind of character the girl is, and all the other aspects of this intriguing plot that you've mentioned.

    Maybe you could make us feel she's incredibly despicable at the start, then your 'reveal' near the end that her true motivations stemmed from something bad that happened to her will be a surprise twist. This will make us think differently about the situation and about her, and turn our preconceptions upside down.

    If we're only wondering whether she's telling the truth or not—that's a different experience, isn't it?
     
  9. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @jannert The way we wrote this at first (before we started wondering ourselves what would provide the best reading experience for the reader while maintaining plausibility) was to go for the suspense factor (what will happen to him? How will he get out of this? Will he be able to clear his name?) instead of mystery (did he do it?). The thing about mystery that worries me is that it will come off too delibarate, you know, the whole cutting the scene just before the reader learns the truth. On the other hand, I like the tickle of a mystery myself, and it's fun to try to put the pieces together, fun to be surprised and confused. I just think you have a point about the mystery shifting the focus when it shouldn't. Especially because the main plot revolves around a mystery already. Too many mysteries, too confusing -- well, to me anyway if I think about it from a reader's POV.
     
  10. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Ask any of the 60+ thousand innocent people on the US's various sex/violent offender registries. Control can be as easy as a "Pay For Freedom" option the triumphant false accuser might offer the truly victimized accused. A recent headline in the town where I live involves a man who was beaten to death by vigilantes because of his being on the registry. It was brought out after the fact that his wife had accused him of child molestation during their divorce, then, after he was released to the public again, recanted. The charges were reversed, but reversing word of mouth and "pitchfork and torch" mindset opinion doesn't reverse that easily. Sure. She controlled him for years with her lie. Now he's dead. Even if she someday feels remorse for her own actions, how can a dead man ever forgive her?

    As for the query. Whichever method hooks the reader's interest best. Most writers I've queried, say "Start with the action." The action doesn't need to reveal the surprise, just nicely tie the bow. In this case, a suggested approach might be...

    "I just don't believe it!" Scallworth defended his long time friend.
    "Well, it's true!" Katie Masters replied. "Look at this, Dave!" She lifted her shirt enough to show her badly bruised left ribcage.
    "Gary wouldn't do that!" Dave insisted.
    "He did! I swear he did!" Her tears trickled down her cheek.
    Scallworth fell silent.
     
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  11. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @DrWhozit
    Thanks, Doc! (and what a horrible thing to happen! Thanks for sharing... )
    This sub-plot kicks off quite early on in the ms, not at the beginning (it starts with the main plotline), but shortly after we've introduced the parties involved in this triangle. We have a pretty good idea at this point how to portray whatever we choose, but, indeed, still mull over our options (mystery vs. suspense).
     
  12. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Hi Ka Trian. (Is simply "K" a working dim?"),

    It's not so easy as one might think in the US these days. I mostly started joining writer forums (this seems a broad spectrum) to work on curing Sports-overshadowing-intellectualism induced writer's block. Some people do their bet work while a twister is ripping their house from around them. I, personally, find it difficult to write (or do math, etc.) when there's a street bball game going on outside (and even extended into) my front lawn. Worse yet when some of the kids take it upon themselves to poison my dog. :(

    These days one must erect fences and install security cameras around their property to foil what amount to evil kids and their supportive parents. I suppose it drives innovation to some extent. Currently I have fences. Come spring, the kids will have to deal with a sprinkler system that also spews out a non-toxic blue-green, indelible dye.

    Thanx for the like. Hope I can provide some food for thought and I'll eventually check out that link to your collaborative work... :)
     
  13. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @DrWhozit Yes, I seem to go by K or Kat for short, either's fine :D

    Wow, that sounds unpleasant, and I hate hate hate it when people poison dogs. Can't believe anyone could get their kicks out of that. I love the idea of dye! Me and my hubby put barbed wire around the railing of our balcony. No one's complained yet; suppose this is a pretty laid-back neighborhood.

    And feel free to visit our page! Blogging has turned out to be a useful tool when it comes to the creative process :)
     
  14. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    A mystery A-plot can work just as well as a suspense A-plot, and a suspense sub-plot can make the A-plot more difficult by distracting the characters, but I imagine that a mystery sub-plot would distract the readers too much.
     
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  15. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Hi Kat,

    Here, the barbed wire is verboten. The dye is not. Sooner or later web cams can catch the perps then their mama n daddy would have to pay and maybe do jail time.

    Has anyone considered that some of this off-topic sub-discussion can be inspiring? One could write a screenplay entitled "White Irish Writers Drinking in America." :D

    From the reader's POV. "How much boring scene setting must I suffer to have a meaningful discussion with that cute redhead at book club?":eek:
     
  16. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Just a quick OT: I don't think barbed wire is all that legal here either (at least it's illegal to set any kind of things that could be construed as traps in the eye of the law, not even on private property unless you're a legalized trapper or a company with valuable assets to protect, but even then I think you need to get permission from the police), but we just found a length of it lying around, abandoned in a ditch (it's all rusty and dirty, nice for infections), so we rescued it and gave it a new, loving home where it can enjoy its life by being a (literal) pain in the asses of our smoking friends when they go to the porch to chimney up the place, drunk, and lean on the railing, having forgotten the existence of our barbed friend.

    As for the topic, thanks for the input everyone. At this point it seems we just need to experiment a bit, write a few different versions of the scenes, and see what works, perhaps have a beta or a few read them through as well.
     
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  17. Albirich
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    Albirich Active Member

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    Reveal at the start, I think. In that way we'd be like "what the fuck?" and be curious on how this very nice lady gets nicer (if not how she is brutally murdered or sent to an asylum) or if we would get affectionate about her situation. Because we see her side as a PoV.

    Things that challenges me in terms of how much I can handle to read (George R R Martin is really testing my limits), makes me want to read more. I don't know if this is usual, or if I'm just totally weird. It's like Cersei Lannister, being the biggest bitch in the entire ASoIaF universe I just can't wait to see her fucked over.

    I don't know if any of this made sense, I haven't slept and its 8:23 AM here in Norway...heh.
     
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  18. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks. I know it's difficult to say anything for sure 'cause only we know the whole story, the pacing, etc but I appreciate the feedback.

    It makes sense, thanks. The good thing about that is that at least reader knows the antagonist and, indeed, can get a degree of satisfaction when said antagonist gets what's coming to her.
     
  19. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Here's a twist. Nest the abuse entirely till the shrink brings it out in the end. Maybe some little hints, like ambiguous flashbacks or nightmares that others dismiss as delusion during the whole book. The surprise ending is when the antagonist is arrested for doing it again, then finally everyone has remorse for not believing her.
     
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  20. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's a good idea, though the way the story stands right now, we can't pull it off quite like that, but it's pretty close. Let's say, the "biggest" revelation is saved till the end and, indeed, sees daylight because of the shrink.
     
  21. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Soooo.... ? You had it all along? ;)
     
  22. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I haven't read other responses so apologies if I'm parroting.

    If you tell us the character has falsely accused him of abusing her it gives the reader someone to hate and someone to root for. I like this scenario rather than chapters of did he or didn't he.
     
  23. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Kinda looks like it, but we're still experimenting with a couple of options.


    That seems to be the common consensus here. We'll try out both options and see which works the best.

    Thanks for the input, everyone!
     
  24. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    My pleasure.

    Options are always nice to have.
     
  25. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Keep the reader in the dark, definitely! That sounds like a heck of a twist, it'd be wasted if you revealed it at the beginning. Keep the reader guessing - that's a hook in itself.

    As for how I'd feel about a woman who lies about abuse in order to control someone - if the woman is still sympathetic, and she's not just an evil psycho, I think it could be okay. It'd be a problem though if you don't make her reasons for lying sympathetic. The possibility of discrediting real abuse cases is the first thing I thought of when I read your post - I'd be quite careful so the crowds that like excuse abuse and rape can't misuse your story.
     

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