When to reveal?
This is one I struggle with. I've done other 3T Tidbits about it, but this is a different slant, brought about as, on this Tuesday in January 2016, I begin mapping out the opening to a new vampire UF/romance.
Here's the rule I've heard--reveal the THING (twist, secret, change of heart, whatever) as late as possible.
So I did. That led to vague nonsense, random bad feelings about blah-blah that I didn't actually explain until it was too late for the reader to care.
New directive: reveal the THING when it will do the most damage.
Or has the most impact, but I like the word damage. I think we remember damage longer than impact.
Example: Vampire UF/romance--as I'm envisioning it now, starts with a prologue from the point of view of Our Hero, an ancient vampire who's also FBI or NSA, not sure which yet, stationed in New York City. He's kneeling beside a bloodless body with two very obvious puncture marks on the throat. "This is the fifth one."
Now, I could leave it at that, and it might make a nice little mystery, but I'm going further. Our Hero says, "A vampire is murdering humans and wants the humans to know it. Wants to show vampires are real." "Why?" asks the sidekick. "My guess?" says Our Hero. "Incite panic."
So right away, I'm revealing the bad guy and his motive, because now it's not just a murder, its a vampire who's operating against the vampire Code of Masquerade, which I think raises the stakes.
Our Hero needs to go to Heroine's HomeTown (for Reasons), but because he's not part of the town's Local Vampire Network, he needs an excuse. Enter Our Heroine, a HomeTown native living in New York (who does NOT want to go back to HomeTown). He says he has to go undercover and Our Heroine's homecoming (or class reunion) is the perfect excuse--he's going as her date.
At this point she knows something is off, but not what. He doesn't tell her, not that he's a vampire or that he's not part of the LVN and the locals are going to get miffed. She'll get vague vibes that things are off, but won't know what. I could have him reveal this stuff to her, but I think it'll be much more effective if he tells the truth after--you guessed it--he's started to care for her and will care about the lie hurting their relationship.
See how this works? Try imagining the THING revealed now. How much headache or heartache does it cause? Now imagine revealing the THING later on down the road. Is the damage worse? The same? Less? If the same or less, how much clarity does the story lose by revealing later?
Now you can decide the best place to put the reveal.
Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing
wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular
order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.