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Old 4th April 2012, 10:14 AM   #31 (permalink)
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Re: When to do the reveal

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Originally Posted by Luiglin View Post
I still don't read that passage in LotR as you have. The shock of apparently losing a main character so early was above and beyond any mentions of dread. That was the point I was trying to get at.
I think you might have misunderstood what I meant. Foreshadowing doesn't mean spelling out "this will happen", it merely means setting something up so that it doesn't emerge totally out of the blue, inexplicable an unexplainable.

All through the lead up to Gandalf's fall there are ample hints that
A) Gandalf is fallible
B) Moria is a bad place to go
C) Moria is particularly bad for Gandalf

Further, as we near the bridge there are bigger setups in play:
A) Gandalf exhaust himself defeating the Orcs at the gate house
B) They have to cross a very narrow bridge over a huge chasm
C) They're in a situation where swords can't save them
D) There's something else with the Orcs, something powerful and terrible

None of these mean that a clever reader should "work out" what is going to happen; it should be a shock and surprise when Gandalf falls, but it's not inexplicable, it's not like a martian descended through the rock and beamed him into space. It's not like the Balrog leaped out of a tree in Lothlorien and ate him.

Foreshadowing isn't necessarily about forewarning a specific event, but can be about establishing the circumstances that allow it.


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Originally Posted by Luiglin View Post
To return to the original post my intention was to the highlight the beauty of a shock in a story. I stand by that and whether that makes me a poor writer, then as I say, that is your opinion.
I didn't say that. What I said was that throwing in unhinted shocks, or perhaps to phrase it another way, shocks that don't "belong" is poor writing. Anyone can throw an arbitrary shock into a story. True quality writing comes in setting up the circumstance without letting your reader realise it; and the death of Gandalf is a prime example. Think about it; any number of factors had to be in place for Gandalf to fall; he was exhausted, the bridge was exceedingly narrow, the Balrog had a whip that could coil about the old man, and so on and so on. Tolkien didn't throw all of that at you suddenly, at the point of Gandalf's fall; he fed it to you, bit by bit, so that it all fell into place without you realising.
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Old 4th April 2012, 10:29 AM   #32 (permalink)
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Re: When to do the reveal

Um... skimming over the mini-argument...

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Originally Posted by springs1971 View Post
I read some feedback from John Jarrold recently, and his take on it was don't be mysterious for the sake of it. If you're withholding something that's going to make it hard for the reader to understand what's going on you run the risk of losing them. So, yes, if you want a mystery, hold off. But leave enough in the story that the reader can follow it. If it's going to affect the ease of reading of the story not to tell when it feels like the right time, then tell them! I have no problem with drip drip, in fact I really can't be bothered with stories that scratch their chin sagely and know more than I do.
I agree with this. I'm definitely not being mysterious for the sake of it, it's just that certain things haven't come up yet - there's been no reason for them to.

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Originally Posted by jeff.s.p View Post
If you intend to write from the killers pov then you'll have to reveal who he/she is early in your story.

But perhaps your big reveal can be something else other than uncovering murderer.
...Perhaps its another element or turn of events, both the killer and investigator are completely unprepared for.


Jeff
Well the big secret isn't going to be the 'who' but the 'why' which is far more interesting in my eyes.

I never planned for the killer's identity to be a secret, it's just like I said, they've not been in it yet so I was wondering if the readers would end up thinking the story was about who the murderer is, only for me to go and tell them early on.

So I've got lots of mini-secrets and a couple of big ones. And yes, it's full of foreshadowing - it's one of the things I love doing.
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Old 4th April 2012, 10:45 AM   #33 (permalink)
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Re: When to do the reveal

Back on phone so difficult to read replies. Apologies for the mini thread hijack Mouse.
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Old 4th April 2012, 02:10 PM   #34 (permalink)
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Re: When to do the reveal

No worries, wasn't off-topic so it's all good!
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Old 4th April 2012, 02:50 PM   #35 (permalink)
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Re: When to do the reveal

Thinking about your situation Mouse, kind of illustrates a dilemma I've always had with my writing.

On one hand I would like to eke out surprises and secrets, as others above have said lay a trail of breadcrumbs, and come to a 'stunning' crescendo in a reveal.

But it really takes a lot of skill to be subtle! And to my experience what is a trail of breadcrumbs to me, is a inconsquential dusty floor to others. To take this analogy to breaking point, I feel when writing that I actually need to lay a trail of hot bacon sarnies all wrapped in fifty pound notes to get the readers attention

So I'm thinking a bold reveal early on helps to simplfy the narrative (in a good way) and takes most of your readers with you, whereas a more complex gradual reveal may be more difficult and tricky and may run the risk of alienating readers more.

Also although I don't know your narrative, revealing the identity of the killer seems to me to be a great way of transitioning from the 'Beginning' to the 'Middle' of the book - automatically the plot dynamics and reader expectations have altered in a stroke
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Old 4th April 2012, 02:56 PM   #36 (permalink)
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Re: When to do the reveal

Yes, very true.

Interesting what you say about the breadcrumbs too. Sometimes I'm writing something, leaving clues, and I'm thinking it's so obvious... only to have someone else read it and not have a clue.

I've just written the first scene now where the killer appears properly and I'm thinking to myself that this is where the reader will get who it is. Even though I don't want them to until I'm writing from the killer's PoV.

But, I'll have to write it and then get somebody else who doesn't know what I'm doing, to read it and see.
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Old 4th April 2012, 03:21 PM   #37 (permalink)
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Re: When to do the reveal

Sounds good, and you can always re-write it to be more obvious afterwards if it doesn't quite work.



The thing that really hit it home for me was when I had to write a short story for an exercise in the course I was in last year. It was to write something for Radio 4, which freaked me out a bit as I don't listen to Radio 4 at all (and also it was a pointless market as they don't accept short stories from unknowns.)

So I wrote a gritty urban fairy tale about a man whose marriage and life is falling apart - because of his selfish actions - who at the same time breaks the sky - because of his selfish actions.

Now I could have written it with subtle nuances and left it to the reader/listener to make the connection between the normal and the supernatural experiences; that one mirrors the other. But no, unsure of the market I made the character just blurt it all out, in my eyes, in plain English.

I felt strange writing it, it felt like a garish Vaudaville - almost an obvious parody (man in suburbia has marriage crisis and break down; weird stuff explained fully to reader). Wasn't really the path I thought I was going with my writing.

Got the best and most generous comments from people reading it (compared to anything else I'd written to that point). Felt strangely gutted and deflated by the praise

It's a hard life trying to be a writer, you can never really win...
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Old 6th April 2012, 12:48 PM   #38 (permalink)
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Re: When to do the reveal

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Originally Posted by Mouse View Post
Yes, very true.

Interesting what you say about the breadcrumbs too. Sometimes I'm writing something, leaving clues, and I'm thinking it's so obvious... only to have someone else read it and not have a clue.

I've just written the first scene now where the killer appears properly and I'm thinking to myself that this is where the reader will get who it is. Even though I don't want them to until I'm writing from the killer's PoV.

But, I'll have to write it and then get somebody else who doesn't know what I'm doing, to read it and see.
I've run into this little breadcrumb dilemma, at times. I find that whole loaves of bread are sometimes more effective. Though, I often use abrupt character kill-offs, and a variety of story shifts, so it may be hard to pick up the trail.
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