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Thread: Describing things that you don't want to reveal to your audience... yet

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    Senior Member Codey Amprim's Avatar
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    Describing things that you don't want to reveal to your audience... yet

    Hi everyone, it's me again.

    I'm working on a prologue right now, and I introduce many things while trying to use the prologue as an effective hook (meaning, I'm trying to focus primarily on action). Since this prologue is the first light shed into the universe that this first story will begin, there's going to be much mentioned with little answering. I'm trying to introduce things by describing what they are, without revealing them off the bat. This is for two reasons: one, I want the audience to discover what they are down the line, and two, I want my character(s) to discover them on their own time. Without being totally vague, I'm trying to describe what these things are to give the audience a good image, but not an identity.

    This can be applied to entire cultures, items, people, creatures, and places. If the characters don't know what some creatures really are or where some ruins truly came from, then how do you as the author reveal them both to the audience and characters?

    How do you go about hiding things from your readers and characters? When do you start identifying things for what they really are?
    - Probably sent from my iPhone.

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    Senior Member Xaysai's Avatar
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    Neil Gaiman's "Snow, Glass, Apple" is a great illustration of what you are talking about.
    Dan's Blogtastic Blog of Blogness
    "Contrary to popular belief, there is sometimes a vicious beauty to be found in my line of work."

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    Senior Member Leif Notae's Avatar
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    I think the better question is why you are hiding it from your reader. Some of the appeal is to know ahead of the characters, especially if there is a history of foreboding.

    It sounds like you are jam packing something in here that might not need to be in it at all. Does this prologue feature your villain/antagonist doing something action packed? Does it set the mood with the tone to come? I think I need more information before I could give more advice myself.

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    Senior Member Codey Amprim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leif Notae View Post
    I think the better question is why you are hiding it from your reader. Some of the appeal is to know ahead of the characters, especially if there is a history of foreboding.

    It sounds like you are jam packing something in here that might not need to be in it at all. Does this prologue feature your villain/antagonist doing something action packed? Does it set the mood with the tone to come? I think I need more information before I could give more advice myself.
    The prologue is a sort of forced dream / vision one of the main characters has that hints at the quest the character will embark upon. I'll drop the vagueness. The character, in the dream/vision, is being chased in an unknown land by a massive horde of shadow beings, which their true name is a Shade. They are one with the shadow, and have varying amounts of powers and capabilities. He has never encountered such a thing, and in the dream he is swarmed by lesser shades that take the form of ethereal wolves. I don't want to address them for what they are just yet, but detail them from his point of view as he sees them.

    Such beings are just echoes from long ago, and barely any know of their existence. I want both him and the audience to discover them, as they are a significant part of the universe the story takes place in.
    - Probably sent from my iPhone.

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    Senior Member Penpilot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Codey Amprim View Post
    Such beings are just echoes from long ago, and barely any know of their existence. I want both him and the audience to discover them, as they are a significant part of the universe the story takes place in.
    Ok, I'm not quite sure if I'm seeing the problem here. I mean as you described, the character has a dream about these shades. Why does he have to know what they are right then? They can just be these shadows in his dream which later can be revealed to be real. For example, they're looking through an old book and when they turn the page there's an image of the shade with a description of what it is.

    I mean if a character doesn't know what something is, then it's reasonable to just describe that something from a point of ignorance.
    -Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.
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    Then your problem is not how you are writing it in this current chapter it is how you will reveal this information as the story progress's. Write the scene just describing what is going on and nothing about the past of these creatures. focus on the present. As your story continues you will then need to figure out how the character and reader discovers the creatures.

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    Senior Member FatCat's Avatar
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    I think that this course of action should be taken very delicately. It's easy to introduce too much too early in fantasy, and this doubles in effect when you're attempting to hide things. I'd say, start identifying these elements when you're character does, at the beginning there is mystery surrounding an element of your world building, play that up. When you do shed light on what is going on, the suspense of not knowing will be all the more satisfying. You have to be careful of the line between 'what's going on' and 'oh shit I didn't see that coming'. I'd say post what you have in showcase, get some beta readers, and see what works and what doesn't.
    Last edited by FatCat; 12-20-12 at 1:37 AM.

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by FatCat View Post
    I think that this course of action should be taken very delicately. It's easy to introduce too much too early in fantasy, and this doubles in effect when you're attempting to hide things. I'd say, start identifying these elements when you're character does, at the beginning there is mystery surrounding an element of your world building, play that up. When you do shed light on what is going on, the suspense of not knowing will be all the more satisfying. You have to be careful of the line between 'what's going on' and 'oh shit I didn't see that coming'. I'd say post what you have in showcase, get some beta readers, and see what works and what doesn't.
    Agreed. This seems like a plotting issue, of how soon to hint at or show a thing-- but especially when to relate things to it. One thing about a nightmare is that, although it lets you throw the image at us first thing, it's harder to give the kind of background of "wait, legends say these things haunt the forests I'm cutting." A powerful image is good, but it should start connecting to links or bodies of myth or clues or past that hint that... when the pieces come together... there's something he could have done about it. (Even if it's just "get out of the haunted house" or "so the state religion got it wrong.")
    For more about the paranormal thriller SHADOWED and the Unified Writing Field Theory blog, see www.KenHughesAuthor.com

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    Senior Member Leif Notae's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Codey Amprim View Post
    The prologue is a sort of forced dream / vision one of the main characters has that hints at the quest the character will embark upon.
    Nothing kills interest more than opening with a dream or revealing at the end it was all a dream. Visions are great, but they should be in the middle.

    A prologue might not be a way to show this particular scene, but it CAN be a way to have your Villain or Wise Master set up to send a message to the Protagonist.

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    Senior Member Codey Amprim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leif Notae View Post
    Nothing kills interest more than opening with a dream or revealing at the end it was all a dream. Visions are great, but they should be in the middle.

    A prologue might not be a way to show this particular scene, but it CAN be a way to have your Villain or Wise Master set up to send a message to the Protagonist.
    That's basically what it is - a message that sets the plot in motion. I do agree that the dream sequence can kill interest, but I think the way I have it setting up the main goal of the first book works right.

    Also, this thread isn't all about solving my problem, I wanted to learn how you all tackle this if it comes up in your writing.
    - Probably sent from my iPhone.

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Describing things that you don't want to reveal to your audience... yet   Describing things that you don't want to reveal to your audience... yet   Describing things that you don't want to reveal to your audience... yet