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Your characters are carrying out a plan. When do you explain to the reader what the plan is?

 
RusticBohemian
(@rusticbohemian)
Advanced Member
Posts: 37

I'm telling a first-person POV story. The main character has two accomplices and they've got a plan. 

First, the main character notices something that sparks the idea for the plan. I don't explain what the plan is at this point, because it seems like that would just bog down the story and take away the reader's interest during the implementation. 

The following section follows the main character's attempt to implement his plan. It becomes obvious to readers how the thing noticed in the previous section sparked the plan. But the two accomplices are not with the main character. Their part of the plan involves them being out of the character's field of view.

Three-quarters of the way through the plan, there is a noise that lets the main character know that his accomplices are carrying out their part of the plan. He then has to escape the area and hope his accomplishes succeed. 

So my question is: When do I explain what the accomplices are doing, and what the sound is? Do I wait to the end? Do I interrupt the action for the main character to explain to the reader what his accomplices are doing when they hear the sound? Do I have to let them know beforehand? 

How do you handle this kind of situation?   

 

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Topic starter Posted : March 30, 2021 11:15 am
JCunningham
(@jcunningham)
Active Member
Posts: 17
Posted by: @rusticbohemian

I'm telling a first-person POV story. The main character has two accomplices and they've got a plan. 

First, the main character notices something that sparks the idea for the plan. I don't explain what the plan is at this point, because it seems like that would just bog down the story and take away the reader's interest during the implementation. 

The following section follows the main character's attempt to implement his plan. It becomes obvious to readers how the thing noticed in the previous section sparked the plan. But the two accomplices are not with the main character. Their part of the plan involves them being out of the character's field of view.

Three-quarters of the way through the plan, there is a noise that lets the main character know that his accomplices are carrying out their part of the plan. He then has to escape the area and hope his accomplishes succeed. 

So my question is: When do I explain what the accomplices are doing, and what the sound is? Do I wait to the end? Do I interrupt the action for the main character to explain to the reader what his accomplices are doing when they hear the sound? Do I have to let them know beforehand? 

How do you handle this kind of situation?   

 

I can't be 100% of help but I'd recommend giving breadcrumbs along the way so that the reader can infer what's happening prior to the main character. It usually hits hard when the reader has the satisfaction of knowing before the main character realizes whatever "it" is... 

http://jcunninghamauthor.com/

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Posted : March 30, 2021 2:21 pm
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Reuben
(@reuben)
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Posts: 216

There are different ways of going about this. Some authors, like Eoin Colfer, don't explain the plan at all, so you only see the character's execution in which he pretends to be the bad guy, or whatever, and in the end it's revealed what he's really doing.

That may work sometimes, but I think the general consensus is to let the reader know what the plan is. Write in a close enough viewpoint that it can be figured out. Or, more simply, you show the MC telling the character to his accomplices. There's nothing cheap about this. If you put some conflict and spontaneity into the dialog it can become a great scene. I think Martin Shoemaker's winner from vol. 31, Unrefined, is a great example of this. The character are yelling at each other, one is scolding the other, and it makes for great characterization as well as moving the plot forward. 

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm ~ Winston Churchill
V37: R, R, R, HM
V38: SHM

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Posted : April 2, 2021 7:57 am
Morgan
(@morgan-broadhead)
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Posts: 129

It's always tough to answer plot questions without seeing the actual story, but here are a few things that come to mind.

For a short story, I try very hard to let the reader know from the very beginning 1) who the main character is, and 2) what the main characters wants. The big story question then becomes, "Will the character obtain what he wants?" My job is to throw obstacles in his path and prevent him from getting what he wants until the very end. Other questions will pop up during the story, but these are always secondary and ancillary to the primary story question.

Depending on the story, you may have some difficulty fitting three character POV's (one main character plus two accomplices) within the word count limit if you have them branch off and do their own thing. Is there any way of combining these characters? Can two accomplices be reduced down to just one accomplice? Can the main character accomplish his mission without any accomplices?

One thing I would NOT do is withhold information from the reader. Depending on which POV you go with, any information the main character knows should also be shared with the reader. I've read stories before where the author purposely withholds information as a gimmick to try and build up suspense or create tension. In my experience, this never works because I can always sense the trickery and it makes the writing feel cheap and amateurish. (Is amateurish a word? Of course it's a word. I'm a writer and I wrote it, therefore it is. So let it be written, so let it be done.)

Hope that helps!

"If you can do it for joy, you can do it forever."
- Stephen King
Drop me a line at https://morganbroadhead.com

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Posted : August 31, 2021 9:06 am
storysinger
(@storysinger)
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Posts: 880

I'm writing to one of the recent prompts. My mc is named in the first sentence. A secondary character appears on the first page.

Together they meet a third character and the plan unfolds at that point. I love the direction the story took me.

I'll finish the thousand+ flash and do the 500 to 250 kyd exercise and see where it goes.

Today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality-D.R.Sweeney
HM-V32/Q3
HM-V36/Q4
HM-V38/Q1

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Posted : September 1, 2021 7:52 am
Joe Benet
(@joebenet)
Active Member
Posts: 5
Posted by: @rusticbohemian

I don't explain what the plan is at this point, because it seems like that would just bog down the story and take away the reader's interest during the implementation. 

The following section follows the main character's attempt to implement his plan. It becomes obvious to readers how the thing noticed in the previous section sparked the plan. But the two accomplices are not with the main character. Their part of the plan involves them being out of the character's field of view.

How do you handle this kind of situation?   

 

Oceans 11, anyone? Seems to have worked out for them Smile

Idea the first: MC "hopes the accomplices get the plan right. They have to, right? It's easy. First, xxx. Then yyy, and finish with zzz. What could go wrong?!?"

Idea the second: dole out smaller chunks of the plan over multiple places so no single section bogs down. (If "Emerging Solutions: Hostage Rescue" is ever published, you'll see I did this to explain a new twist on time travel.)

4xHM: Q?'16, Q3'17, Q4'18, Q1'19

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Posted : September 14, 2021 9:45 am
czing
(@czing)
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Posts: 196
Posted by: @morgan-broadhead

One thing I would NOT do is withhold information from the reader. Depending on which POV you go with, any information the main character knows should also be shared with the reader. I've read stories before where the author purposely withholds information as a gimmick to try and build up suspense or create tension. In my experience, this never works because I can always sense the trickery and it makes the writing feel cheap and amateurish. (Is amateurish a word? Of course it's a word. I'm a writer and I wrote it, therefore it is. So let it be written, so let it be done.)

Hope that helps!

I agree with this that keeping back info can make the revelation of it come off as an authorial device rather than as a twist or surprise and that is very unsatisfying to the reader (and very off putting in some cases). It can work but you have to be a way better writer than I am yet to pull it off. Make sure you have a beta reader who isn't afraid to tell you if that is how it reads.

On several Writing Excuses episodes more than one of the hosts has said to tell the reader stuff at the earliest point you can and don't hold back the good stuff.

v36 Q1, Q3 - HM; Q4 - R
v37 Q1 - R; Q2 - SHM; Q4 - HM
v38 Q1 - HM; Q2 -SHM; Q3 - P

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Posted : September 18, 2021 3:59 pm
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