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Concealing vs Revealing, when is too early to reveal?
Elizabeth OConnor
Posted: Thursday, June 30, 2011 4:54 PM
Joined: 5/11/2011
Posts: 22

I had a writing coach say once that is always better to reveal as opposed to conceal. I do agree with him, but I am having an issue with my first chapter. It was recommended to me that I include what is unique and different about my novel in the beginning, which makes perfect sense. What I wonder is, part of what makes it different is the conflict my characters will go through. If I bring this up in chapter one, I feel I am giving plot points away too early.

Perhaps I am thinking about the logistics of this all wrong, and I need to attack the problem from another angle. What is your advice?

Posted: Saturday, July 16, 2011 1:23 PM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 157

I agree with the writing coach's concept that it is better to reveal than conceal. Exceptions of course for mystery where you are allowed to conceal the murder until the end. But I'm perplexed about what "including what is unique and different about the novel" means. To me, that would be something that belongs in a query letter, not within the novel itself. I don't want a writer to explain anything about the novel to me. I want them to drop me into a vibrant and living world.

Now, if the conflict your characters go through is what makes the novel unique, then you want to get that conflict started as early as possible. Now, to support a novel, the conflict will probably need to evolve and deepen over time, but starting the novel at a key point that begins the conflict might be what draws the reader in.
Jay Greenstein
Posted: Saturday, July 16, 2011 3:44 PM
The time to reveal is when the protagonist knows and needs the data, as s/he becomes either aware of it or finds need to recall and use the information. So it's the situation that character finds him/herself in that really dictates—or should.

I took a look at the story, and my impression was that you're telling me about the character, from your POV. She stands still on a ledge, doing nothing and thinking little, while you, as the only active character, circle her and feed me gossip. You explain, in other words. She has thoughts, but only as necessary to support your narration, so she's your servant, and doing as you bid, rather then you being her recorder. In her world she would be thinking about whatever has her attention, be it the pretty sky or who to have for dinner.

So as the storyteller, of course you're faced with deciding what to tell the reader. But as a reader, I didn't come to hear someone talk about an unknown "her" I came to share her life as she lives it—assuming it's interesting (which is where you come in). In your own life you have no explainer. And were one to appear you'd ask them who they are and what they want.

The short version: If I know who she is, inside, and what's happening instead of what happened, I think it would be a lot more fun.

I know this isn't what you were asking, but this is what hit me, so for what it may be worth...

Jay Greenstein

Samantha and the Bear
Foreign Embassy
(shameless self promotion, but you do what you can)
Elizabeth OConnor
Posted: Saturday, July 23, 2011 6:39 AM
Joined: 5/11/2011
Posts: 22

Thank you all for some wonderful responses. I think I struggle with the first chapter so much because it was originally an almost stand alone prologue.

Jay- You are right, there is some distance there from my character. Having started my second novel, I am beginning to notice the heavy narrative voice from sections of the first.
On the other hand, part of the opening characters personality is deadened and distant. She doesn't feel much, or find much interesting anymore. she just does what she can to keep herself moving. I'm working to bring in a bit more emotion from her, as it makes her a bit more likable, but again - that deadened state is her nature.

Since this is a vampire novel. (though it is not so much about vampires as it is on how they came to be), and vampires are everywhere, I need to immediately show what makes this novel different from a slew of others.

Thanks again for your responses!

Posted: Monday, August 6, 2012 8:58 PM
I wrote about this very thing on my blog not all that long ago


Sneaky Burrito
Posted: Thursday, August 9, 2012 1:19 PM
Joined: 5/28/2012
Posts: 43

I think Jay's first paragraph is exactly right.

One additional "don't," which unfortunately is quite common in fantasy (my preferred genre): don't have a more knowledgeable character withhold key information because your main character "isn't ready to hear it."  It's not really that your main character isn't ready to hear it, it's that it would totally ruin your story for the secret to be out now.  If you have to resort to this device, you probably need to do some re-thinking when it comes to your story's overall structure.

Please don't be so blatant as to have someone come out and say "you're not ready to hear that," which I did actually read in a *published* work recently.  (It's entirely different when your character doesn't even realize there IS a secret, or has the wrong impression, like in the later Harry Potter books with Snape.)


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