1. The Scarred Servant

    The Scarred Servant Member

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    What should be implied and what should be apparent?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by The Scarred Servant, Apr 30, 2017.

    One thing I enjoy doing in my stories is implanting dark or interesting implications that are really not central to the plot, but carry a bit of weight when considering all the context. But sometimes, I think in doing so I'm taking away potential from the story by keep these as back ground nods instead of plot points.

    See, in my story I have two protagonists making a long journey across a screwed up world. The structure of the story is a form of interconnecting mini-adventures (So, it's basically your average family road trip movie with more stranger danger). In one instance we meet a character who mentions that her brother had gone to the same city the two MC had just come from to look after his family, mentioning him by name a laying little hints that they were pretty close and that he was a very happy person. In the beginning of the story, one of the MC gain their 'lucky charm' from the corpse of said family member after he very obviously had committed suicide, but it's never directly stated in the story that the two are the same person, only that the man's initials match the name given.

    Another instance ties heavily into one MC backstory, where his parents died in a car accident. This MC is thrown into a cage with another man by a cannibal and the two bond over their attempts to escape, the man is a rather kind and joyful guy who gets along fine with the MC, them becoming fast friends and parting on good terms. But the man at one point describes how shit his old life was, how his wife left him, he was starting to get back into drinking and was imprisoned for causing the deaths of a couple when he crashed into their car; blind drunk. He then goes onto to describe the car he crashed into, which I hope the audience notices that it matches the description of the car the MC remembers his parents driving. Yep, he's facing the guy who killed his parents and he never knows it.

    I just get the feeling that I lessening the story by not having these aspects brought to light because of how they could probably change the character dynamics and plot.
     
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  2. Pinkymcfiddle

    Pinkymcfiddle Banned

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    Everything should be apparent. You know the story better than anyone- what is apparent to you, is implied to others. What is implied to you is hidden behind a veil of mist to others.
     
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  3. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Are these details intrinsic to the plot/theme of the story? If so, I agree that they should be made pretty obvious.

    But if they aren't? I don't think there's anything wrong with little Easter Eggs, things people may or may not notice, may speculate about, etc.

    Depends on your goals and your style of writing, I'd say.
     
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  4. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Contributor

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    Keep your mind on the story and theme.

    Do these incidents carry significant weight, are they intrinsic to the theme? Are they intrinsic to the plot?

    a) Intrinsic to the plot: Show/tell the reader the connection. The reader signs up to be told a story, and if you fail to do that, because the reader is too 'stupid'/'dense' to pick up the hints, he'll not be satisfied.

    b) Intrinsic to the theme: I don't think you need to be more obvious. You might sprinkle the hints a bit more obviously (maybe use phrases that the reader will recognise at both ends of the rainbow), but as for definitely stating them? I don't think it's necessary. But that might be only me; I love Easter Eggs :)

    c) Intrinsic to none: Leave them as is.
     
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  5. The Scarred Servant

    The Scarred Servant Member

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    It's not really important to the plot as the circumstances of his parents's death and the woman's relation to the man do not factor into the story or how the characters develop, though the man's backstory could contribute to the theme of leaving the past behind (As the MC says to the man when he admits to being a criminal "The world ended, what you were before then doesn't matter anymore").
     
  6. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Contributor

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    I didn't mean for you to answer these questions here. I meant you should ask them of yourself, and then you could choose better what to do.

    Remember, you're the creator of your story. Not us others :)
    YOU have to choose.
     
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  7. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    With these specific instances, I would consider how coincidental they are. Just happening to encounter (the corpse of) another character's brother because he happened to have been in the same city? Just happening to get stuck in cannibal town with the guy who killed your parents when he could be, really, anywhere in the country or world? For me, if these things were confirmed, it would test my suspension of disbelief. If they're left as implications, it's not a problem.
     
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  8. Ale

    Ale Member

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    I might be subjective because I love easter eggs, but if it is not plot relevant, there is no need to be more straightfoward. If you feel some of these subplots are particularly interesting/concern the main character , I would just emphasize the suggestion so readers don't miss it but you don't actually say it out loud. As an example, spend a lot of time describing the car, and use the same choice of words for both instances to describe it. Readers are quick to pick up those kinds of codes; if I have a character whose eyes are a 'shocking dark blue' and has a mysterious parentage, readers will quickly be suspicious of any character described with 'shocking dark blue eyes'.
     
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  9. Megs33

    Megs33 Active Member

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    in my opinion, you're too close to the story to be able to answer this question adequately. and by that I mean you're staring at one aspect of the story with a magnifying glass when you may do better to back up and see everything as a larger whole.

    In my own case I'm coming to find that if I have to tie my brain in to knots wondering about how to reveal something that was hinted at earlier, it means I need to step away and move on to something else so I can come back to a previous sticking point with fresher eyes. i caution against thinking too far in to this because you run the risk of contriving a part of your story for the sake of "whoa! that was the same person!".

    you should keep a couple of sticky notes with these plot points and include an "Implied/Apparent?" question. finish your story (or the part of the story you're working on; whatever works), and then go back and read through everything again with those questions in the back of your mind. Maybe you'll see a way to twist a part of the story that you hadn't originally considered, letting you drop a surprise on your reader. Either you find that moment or you don't, though. if it can't find it's place then it probably doesn't belong in the story.
     
  10. NoGoodNobu

    NoGoodNobu Contributor Contributor

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    Just my personal preference, but I like picking up inferences & implications than everything nicely spelt out

    On the one hand if I pick it up and others don't, it makes me feel immensely clever

    On the other hand if I don't catch it the first read & notice it on subsequent perusals, I think the author is immensely clever find the book more enjoyable

    For example, in Austen's Pride & Prejudice there is a scene in which the protagonist Lizzy is discussing with antogonist/love interest Mr. Darcy about her best friend's marriage.

    The conversation on three levels, two of which are explicitly told the reader.

    1. The two are discussing Charlotte Lucas's recent marriage to Mr. Collins.
    2. Lizzy thinks they are actually secretly discussing her sister Jane & Darcy's friend Mr. Bingley's potential marriage.
    3. Mr. Darcy thinks they are actually discussing a potential marriage between himself & Lizzy.


    The most obvious & explicit is the Charlotte/Collins conversation, whose names are the ones thrown about as the subject of the conversation and are in fact being discussed, although actually more as a side note

    The second layer is Jane/Bingley, which the narrator says at some point in the conversation that Lizzy blushed, thinking of her sister & continued the conversation, using only Charlotte/Collins as stand-ins

    The third & implied layer is Lizzy/Darcy, only hinted at in Darcy interrupting the flow of their dialogue to interject that Lizzy had no right or reason to partiality to her home, which makes no sense in light of the first two layers of conversations but makes perfect sense when you know Darcy had been actually discussing with her a possible union between himself & Lizzy herself

    Now I personally thought the whole thing was rather obvious (as the narration had been letting us in here & there on Darcy's growing interest with Lizzy for several chapters) but apparently a lot of my friends didn't notice it at all until the second reading–or when I excitedly pointed it out as one of my favourite things in literature when multiple conversations happen simultaneously in a single dialogue.

    Not a single friend or reader was upset that they hadn't noticed before or that Austen hadn't spelt it out more overtly—they all just thought it was varying degrees of interesting to wonderful and reread to see if there had been other subtle implications & hints they had previously missed.

    There was a children's story that at first I didn't realize a significance of a scene, but on my second rereading realized that it was there that character's has tried & failed at something important. It's never directly referred to or brought back up in the little bit of explanations or tidying up at the very end—but after knowing what I knew from the end, the innocuous moment brushed off by a careless shrug suddenly made a lot more sense and had a lot more significance. It was an unimportant detail the first read but an amazing realization upon the second.

    Those sorts of things in books give me pleasure.
     
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  11. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    Being mostly a "pantser", I call these things threads. They can be coincidences, but they can be tied together to form a thread through the main plot, with their own climax and denouement. I have several in mine that developed, but had they been left alone, they might have been at best an irrelevant distraction. One of my characters, for example, came from somewhere that no one in 1st Century Eurasia should have come from, though only I knew this. I put him in the story on a whimsy, and on the first draft, made it too obvious too soon where he was from. I toned down that introduction later, left it as a hint, and just developed him otherwise as a side character, for some reason close to the Jewish rebel (both were deckhands) but Shmuel could only barely communicate with him. Not until everyone learned Chinese, on the lam out of China, did he begin to tell his story: his sudden fluency in a grammatically simple, almost agrammatic, language uncorked his need to communicate and we (and I) leaned a little more about him. Then when he meets one of the female character, he comes into his own as a deep, complex character, central to the female character's radical change, who in turn is radically changing the FMC.

    Advice: leave these threads in there. If they never go anyway, take them out as a distraction on first revision, or leave them as something that brings the events you mentioned back to mind and they wonder "if" and then "naw, couldn't be" and move on. Those things happen in real life all the time, and can be used to develop someone's backstory, because it makes them remember their parents being killed, etc. Maybe at this point they don't have to connect the two, but mark the similarities. Or they may be useful in developing one or more of your characters.
     
  12. Ettina

    Ettina Senior Member

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    I'm going to put another vote for the idea of leaving those threads in. It sort of reminds me of the feel of sidequests you didn't finish in a game, and gives the feeling that the world is much larger than just what the plot focuses on.
     

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