Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Playing Coy

We're going to ignore the fact that my first book had a ten page prologue with terribly passive writing--boy have I come a long way. ;) The biggest problem with my story was that I was being too coy with the reader. I deliberately held information back in an attempt to be suspenseful when really it was just plain annoying.


Tell the reader what they need to know. It will help them trust you and not feel cheated out of valuable information. I think it's common for beginning writers to think being secretive builds suspense, but readers don't want to be tricked.

I say tell the reader everything, cut open those characters for the world to see, and be honest about what's going on. It's okay to reveal things at the proper times, just don't hold everything back until this grandiose moment in the end when everything is revealed and you pat yourself on the shoulder congratulating your own cleverness. Instead let the reader look back on the story and realize yes, this is exactly what should have happened because it was in front of me the whole time. Surprising but inevitable. Not coy.

I love twists and still find myself falling into the coy trap sometimes as a writer. Have you ever done this in your writing? Read books that do this?

20 comments:

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Glad to see you've matured in your writing. It is true that readers like to be surprised but you have to do it in a way that they don't feel fooled. Like J.K. Rowling did with Snape in the final book, you knew the truth about him was a part of everything not just some sudden change you couldn't understand.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't think I could be coy if I tried...

Suzi said...

I've read books like that. And they make me feel stupid. I know we're supposed to balance things. Don't explain everything for your reader. Okay, yeah, I get it (and need to work on that). But sometimes I read books and wonder what I'm missing. It is annoying.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I recently read a book where a woman, the protag, was about to fight back against the bad guy but the reader didn't find out until the woman lunged at the guy that she had previously picked up a glass shard (or whatever it was.) I would've liked to have known that BEFORE she lunged. Things like that happened throughout the book and it just bugged me. But maybe that's just me. :)

Cassie Mae said...

Oh, this sounds exactly like me, lol. First book, I thought I was being sneaky... nope, just plain annoying, lol.

Johanna Garth said...

Okay, so I had something insightful to say and then I read Alex's comment and cracked up!

Good advice. I think as fledgling writers we start with only a vague idea of how to build suspense. It's a learning curve, right!

Jer said...

This post made me think of WIFYR and Louise Plummer's class. Good memories! I think I was the worst culprit at being coy! Lesson learned... :)

Murees Dupé said...

This is a very great tip, thank you. I have done this in one of my novels, kept some information from the reader in the hopes of making it interesting.

J. A. Bennett said...

I totally did that as a beginning writer too. I've come a long way :)

Connie B. Dowell said...

You said it perfectly. A reader should look back and see all the clues they missed. Speaking of clues, reading mysteries is great for learning this technique, whatever genre you write.

T. Drecker said...

Nope, coy isn't one of my talents. Try blunt. :)
It is amazing to look back and realize we've learned more and actually improved. Kind of like a cloud with a silver lining.

Crystal Collier said...

Amen to that! That's why I eventually switched to 3rd person, so the reader got more of the scoop. Silly stingy me.

Carrie Butler said...

Perfect image for the title! :)

Robin said...

I've been there before too. (and I remember that 1st story of yours:D ) Off to cut open my characters some more...

Donna K. Weaver said...

Good post. I did a critique for Publication Primer where I'd already read the submission once. Then I waited three weeks and read them all again. It was amazing how much more poignant that one story was since I could put it in context. When I mentioned that, our pub primer instructor said too often we withhold too much information.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

I learned this lesson the hard way. It is now on the top of my advice list for writers. :)

Jessica L. Celaya said...

It is so tricky to learn how to master how much information to tell. I am always annoyed when authors hold back information on purpose. It is doable, but takes skill. This is a great topic, thanks for posting.

Yolanda Renee said...

All the clues have to be there, the red herrings, the truth, but done in a way on a few of the savvy will figure it out and the rest will go back and say - why didn't I see that!

Great post!

Thanks for the lovely comment on Alex's blog about flirting. Silly, silly me - didn't recognize it for what it was until too late - other wise I'd have sold that book! :)

Kathryn Purdie said...

I did this with my first attempt of my first chapter of my first book. Then my dad read it and gave me a HUGE lecture I'll never forget! I love twists and turns too, but as Joss Whedon said, it's better to show all your cards up front, then the twists and turns that happen are more grounded and impactful :-)

Nicole said...

Excellent advice. Books that are too coy are a turn off as a reader.