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Are you of the philosophy that your readers should know all about your main character from the outset?  Or, are you good with keeping certain aspects of your character under wraps.

 

I'm redoing a novella with a "recycled" character.  He is a bit of a "superhero," whose origins I don't have the space to fully explain.  Yet to maintain consistency, his abilities bleed through into the story.

I've done something similar with another character, but he was a supporting character, not the main one.

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32 minutes ago, Jeff Potts said:

Are you of the philosophy that your readers should know all about your main character from the outset?  Or, are you good with keeping certain aspects of your character under wraps.

 

Yes, I'm in favor of revealing the character as the story goes on.

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13 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

Are you of the philosophy that your readers should know all about your main character from the outset? 

 

I think it really depends on the story. Most of my stories establish the main character early, put them through a number of challenges as the story progresses, observe them deal with these challenges, and how they grow/develop. Other times it's about slowly learning who the main character really is, usually because there's some sort of plot twist that hinges on something that's not apparent about the MC (or should have been if you were paying attention).

 

And sometimes it can be an ensemble of characters that grow/develop as the story progresses. 

 

While having strong characters is important, I think the story should drive the process.

 

 

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On 4/3/2021 at 6:44 PM, Jeff Potts said:

Are you of the philosophy that your readers should know all about your main character from the outset?  Or, are you good with keeping certain aspects of your character under wraps.

 

I'm redoing a novella with a "recycled" character.  He is a bit of a "superhero," whose origins I don't have the space to fully explain.  Yet to maintain consistency, his abilities bleed through into the story.

I've done something similar with another character, but he was a supporting character, not the main one.

If you dump all of the information of the reader at the start, that might either bore them or make them instantly uninterested in your book. I prefer giving out bits of info throughout the book. I've read books that have done it, and I have given the official Ky approval for them. 😄 (Well, some of the ones I've read. Some don't deserve such a high accolade.)

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On 4/3/2021 at 5:44 PM, Jeff Potts said:

Are you of the philosophy that your readers should know all about your main character from the outset?  Or, are you good with keeping certain aspects of your character under wraps.

 

Do you mean that you personally don't know all about your main character from the beginning, or that you don't reveal everything about him just at first? I would say neither is necessary, and the latter might lead to boring info dumps.

 

Personally, I rarely know (invent) much more about even my main characters than what I need for the story. I know some people swear by creating detailed backstories for their characters, but when I tried it, it didn't make the character feel more interesting or more real...so I quickly gave it up.

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On 4/3/2021 at 5:44 PM, Jeff Potts said:

Are you of the philosophy that your readers should know all about your main character from the outset?  Or, are you good with keeping certain aspects of your character under wraps.


Depends on the kind of story I'm writing. 
https://storygrid.com/narrative-drive/
 

Quote

 

"...how a writer dispenses information to generate Narrative Drive. A story has three possible informational scenarios. I call them LESS, SAME, and MORE.

LESS is when the storyteller gives the reader less information than the characters in the story have.

SAME is when the reader and the characters in the story discover the same things at the same time.

MORE is when the reader knows more than the characters.

The “LESS” scenario generates mystery.

The “SAME” generates suspense.

And the “MORE” generates dramatic irony.


Mystery requires LESS information, withholding information from the reader. Classic “closed” mystery stories open with a dead body and by the end of the book the killer is discovered and revealed by a detective/investigator/amateur sleuth/cat/whatever who has pieced together the truth from the lies told by other members of the cast. A bunch of false clues are seeded inside the story called “red herrings” that are used to outwit the reader. They’re fun to read, but books that rely solely on mystery for their narrative drive tend to lose their appeal after a while.


Suspense requires the SAME information, sharing the same information with the reader as it comes to light to a character. The storyteller places the reader, like a parrot on the shoulder of a pirate, in the exact position as the character.
For example:

In a War Story, the reader always follows the protagonist into a combat zone. We, like the soldier, don’t know if there is a sniper with a bead on us or even if one of our own fellow warriors behind us is fully capable of covering our back.


Dramatic Irony requires MORE information, giving the reader information that one or more of the characters don’t have. The storyteller places the reader in the “dread” position. That is, they see the train coming that will shatter a character’s life before the character does.  How he reacts or doesn’t react is the source of tension.

 


I'm watching a detective show where the detective knows more than the viewer does and only reveals all at the finale. It's the classic Mystery delivery, and it works brilliantly.

My Fantasy / Noir uses the Suspense narrative drive because I'm telling the story in the 1st Person and the reader knows everything the POV character knows.

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To everything about the character as a reader takes away the joy of learning and discovering. it is through a character's journey through the story that their nature is revealed. Yes, you need to nail down some of their traits/nature so that the reader has enough to visual and identify with them.

 

For example, in the Potter series Snape is portrayed as a nasty guy whose true heroic nature is revealed in the later books. His picking on Harry becomes more understandable as grief over Snape love for Harry's mother - a love that results in Snape sacrificing his own life for Harry.

 

I love it when the author pulls the rabbit out of the hat with thrillers and suspense stories at the end and as a reader I have to go back and work out the clues I have missed. it is something I try to do in my own work. 

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3 hours ago, Shamrock said:

I love it when the author pulls the rabbit out of the hat with thrillers and suspense stories at the end and as a reader I have to go back and work out the clues I have missed. it is something I try to do in my own work. 

 

I call it, "leaving a trail of bread crumbs."

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So, I posed this question to another writers group of mine.  The response I got back was roughly 50/50, being some saying that the main character's backstory should be revealed in full, and the other half saying they kinda like having a little ambiguity with a character.

 

I've thought quite a bit about it, and the information I was initially going to leave out is going in to the story.  Mainly because the scene I have conjured in my head works.  And after thinking about it more, this reveal will dovetail into another character I've developed, but whose exact details were still being developed.  So, all in all, revealing some key details is a win-win with both the story I'm writing, and a series I've been developing.

 

In the end, it's always good to ask this kind of question and see what people think.  I like the concept of a mysterious main character, and leaving questions behind to give the reader something to chew on long after the book is done.  I mean, you can't do it with all the characters, but a few here and there is not a bad thing.

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