1. Gammer
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    Gammer Active Member

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    When Should I Show The Character's Real Motives to the Reader?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Gammer, Dec 13, 2012.

    So basically in my Fantasy WIP, a young temple acolyte is tasked with tracking down sacred objects and bring them back to her temple for them to be purified and quarantined. The empire sends two bodyguards to protect her. But they all have ulterior motives. The acolyte wants to use these relics to find her disappeared father while the bodyguards have been ordered to take the relics from her when gets all five in order for them be analyzed to help with the war effort. (The relics hold a special magic that the Temple wants under wraps)

    I was wondering when would be best to bring this up to reveal this to the reader. Right away to get the tension going early on? In the middle when the readers has gotten to know them a bit more? Or near the end as a surprise?
     
  2. thedarkknight
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    thedarkknight Member

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    I think with what you described, it would be best to introduce the motives at the beginning to give some tension to the story. Either that, or gradually divulge the ulterior motives along the way to sustain interest. I think it might be difficult to keep the reader interested if you wait until late in the story to reveal what the characters are really thinking.
     
  3. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    I would leave it until the end but have hints on the way--a whispered conversation between the bodyguards that the MC notices but is unable to hear or understand perhaps.

    If you want tension, why not have a third party after the relics - perhaps to stop the war effort and allow 'them' to win.
     
  4. liquidenvy
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    liquidenvy New Member

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    I'm of the opinion that the viewpoint character's motives should be apparent immediately. Obscuring the motives of the viewpoint character doesn't make them mysterious, it makes it difficult for reader to engage emotionally with them.

    As far as the other characters go... I would reveal their motives gradually. Drop enough hints to make the reader suspicious, and then eventually the viewpoint character as well. When you finally reveal it completely, it should probably be at whatever moment is the least convenient for your character. Possibly when the relic is finally acquired? Or when they THINK it's about to be acquired? I'm not familiar with the specifics of your plot, so I couldn't tell you exactly what moment that would be, but my rule of thumb is:

    Whatever sucks the most, do that to your characters.
     
  5. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I was writing it, I'd probably have the acolyte's motives known from the start and the bodyguards' to be revealed around the end of the middle - sounds like the kind of thing that's good as an end-of-Act-2-oh-crap-moment.

    Generally I don't like 'if I was writing it' caveats, because you put this question up for advice and it shouldn't need to be qualified, but in this case it does matter. There's no right way of doing it. It all depends on how you handle it in the story, how well you can deliver the payoff as a writer and what effect you want the story to have on your reader. Want tension? Have it known to us from the start. Want a big reveal? Stick it near the end.

    Remember that however you do it, you'll need to write it carefully. When we know something that's not common knowledge to the characters,it's very easy to make them appear stupid. And stupid characters can strain suspension of disbelief. Likewise, if you reveal something later on in the story, it can't come out of the blue. There have to be hints throughout so that even if the reader didn't spot them at the time, they recognise them once the reveal's been made. Get that wrong, and you may as well write 'but it was OK, because I just zapped them with the alien super-weapon I'd been hiding under my jacket just in case this kind of thing happened.'
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Every story is different, and every writer will decide differently.

    You may choose to keep the reader in suspense, not knowing what motivates the character, even leaving it in doubt whose side he is really on.

    Or you may build suspense a different way, knowing each character's true agenda (or IS it?), while the acolyte is trusting the wrong people and NOT trusting those who are really on her side.

    There are too many ways to play it for us to make the decision for you!
     
  7. sylvertech
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    sylvertech Active Member

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    There are actually many effective ways.

    You could perhaps alternate narration between characters,
    which would reveal the motives to the reader and not the other characters.

    You could also flat out dump the exposition if you are using an omniscient third person narrator,
    which would be more comical than anything else. (See: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

    You could also simply use first person or third person limited and gradually have the characters learn.
     
  8. Pundemic
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    Pundemic Member

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    I think it'd be cool to reveal the acolyte's motives fairly early, but perhaps not straight away. Introduce us to the characters and make it seem like the acolyte is going along with the plan, and then allow us to understand that she's going to do something different. This allows us to understand what it's like from the bodyguards' perspective before we start to think it's a simple case of deception on the acolyte's part. From that point have a period where we think the bodyguards are straight up. If the readers place some trust in them along with the acolyte it's a bigger deal when we finally realise their true intentions. Then maybe drop some hints so that the acolyte suspects something might be shifty but has no solid way to be sure. The tension grows towards the end as more and more suspicious stuff starts happening. But never wholly reveal the bodyguards' scheme until they actually act or are just about to, to keep us guessing.

    But yeah, those are just my thoughts. There are a lot of ways you could do it which would be good if written the right way, and the style of the writing would have a big impact on which would work best.
     
  9. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    I would say the biggest thing is what you hope to achieve with the story, and what you want in response from your audience. Deciding these things will determine the best way to write the story, and when to reveal the true intentions behind each character. There are a million different "right" ways to do it, and a million different "wrong" ways to do it. What you want from the story and from the audience determines which is right, and which is wrong.
     
  10. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    This is a good idea for a story. I actually have been inspired to write something with your dynamic of two people escorting one person somewhere. I plan on revealing the orders right off the bat. I plan on using the theme of freewill in my story.
     
  11. paper55
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    paper55 New Member

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    I would agree with this. If the story POV stays out of the protagonist's head, you may end up creating too much distance between the reader and your character. On the other hand, if the POV is revealing the thoughts/motive of the protagonist as one thing, and then suddenly, "surprise" their thoughts flips entirely to something else, it seems like a bit of a cheap trick on the reader. Either way aint so great.

    I'd go with revealing the protagonist Acolyte's real motives from the start, but the Bodyguards could stay hidden right until an opportune time to put the knife in if need be.
     
  12. kev675
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    kev675 Member

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    When she fully trusts them




    I am the Warlock I shall bend heaven and earth to my will and also bend yours as well hahahahahha
     

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