Optimism is NOT Arrogance

Arrogance is the belief that you are BETTER than others. Optimism is the belief that you have the same CHANCE as others. We all have the chance to achieve our dreams. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Got a secret? Dropping hints on your reader...

Well, it's about time we all got back to work, right?  Thanksgiving break is over, gotta get that manuscript ready.  I've gotten the last of the reviews from Caitlin, so now I'm going over the manuscript one more time with a fine tooth comb before I send it back.  I like to read a chapter, make any adjustments, and then re-read it with Caitlin's notes just to make sure I've covered everything she's pointed out.  Nothing will tick off an agent more than if you ignore their marks.

But this blog is about secrets.  I'm reading Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane, and I gotta tell ya, it's some amazing writing.  Not only does he have the basics WELL covered (dialogue, character, plot movement, etc. etc.), but after seeing the movie FIRST, and knowing how it ends, I'm reading the book knowing his secret, and boy, does he do a great job dropping hints.

Now I won't go into too much detail about this book other than to say READ IT, but I wanted to touch on how to drop hints, especially if you have a major twist in the end you're going to drop on the reader.

Lehane does this expertly.  His hints, and I think this is absolutely necessary if you're going to shift gears at the end, are subtle, but once the ending is known, are CLEARLY relevant.  In other words, they're so well placed that by the time the twist happens, you subconsciously knew it was going to happen, and thus leap up saying WOW!

How do you do that?  Well, Lehane uses the actions of the characters, the SECONDARY characters, to convey subtle hints.  Let's say your main character is a woman, but really a man.  Simple, if not overused twist.  Like the movie Tootsie, only coming into it without knowing the first part.  How can you subtly drop hints about that?  You know the secret, and you want to tease your reader with it.

1)  AVOID the obvious.  If your hero loves dolls, boom.  The reader will get it right away.  And if it's too obvious they'll drop the book - they've already figured it out.  If it's subtle and they THINK they've figured it out, they'll continue reading to see if they were right.  But the best, is when the hints are so subtle they don't even think there's anything TO figure out.  So, in this instance - how do you avoid gender related hints in our example?  You could make remarks that the hero has to put on her own makeup, and casually talk about her fear of someone else touching her face.  You could talk about the amount of time it takes her to get dressed in the morning.  Or her deeply rooted need for privacy.  These are character traits of any person, but when you realize she's a man, you realize WHY she doesn't like anyone touching her face, and why it takes her so long to get ready.

2)  DO write with your secret in mind.  If you throw it out there with NO hints, your reader will feel cheated and will hate you for pulling that outta your butt.  "WHAT?  That makes no sense!" is something you never want to hear.  Make sure you're consistent throughout.  If she doesn't like having anyone touch her face, don't have her stopping in a mall to get a quick facial.

3)  DON'T lie to support your secret.  Again, if you make it too fake your reader will feel cheated.  Don't have your heroine make out with a man just to convince the reader she's a woman, when the REAL man is a tough as nails womanizer.  That wouldn't make sense.  Just like #2.

These are just my ideas, and I'm sure there are more, but you get the gist of it.  If you can keep a secret until the end of the book, make sure it's a good one, and drop little hints or clues that at the time seem innocuous, but will pack a wallop in the end.

Ok, off to bed with me!

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