I have a question

 

So, I don’t want to make this a long post or drag this out.

The Problem:

A reader told me she’d like to know the reason for a conflict up front while the plot evolves, so I went and added some details, but kept others to prolong the curiosity of the reader. And then the other day, another reader said (after she read the adjusted manuscript) that I should add the reason for the conflict early on, adding that when she finally pieced all the pieces and realized the reason (about a fourth of the way through the book), that she no longer cared or empathized.

My question:

Would you rather have books reveal the reason for a conflict bit by bit as the plot evolves, or would you rather the conflict be explained early on, then see how the plot evolves from there? For example, the protagonist is facing a problem that resulted from such conflict. Would you rather know the reason for that conflict in one scene, or find out in snippets here and there throughout the book? Why is that?

85 Replies to “I have a question”

  1. I think I rather it bit by bit because stories are meant to evolve over time. They aren’t meant to be spoon fed. And some things become obvious as you read the story. Knowing it all beforehand takes away the story. But it can also depend on the genre…

    Liked by 4 people

  2. It totally depends. In a plot driven book, I like the problem spaced out, with little clues. In a dialogue driven book, I like the problem front and center. If it’s first person, I prefer it in bits so the character tells us the story the way a person might relate a story. Then also, it it an unreliable narrator? If narrator is unreliable, then bits and pieces are the only way to go. If it’s a lightship type book, it’s probably better to have the secret out entirely. If there’s any air of mystery to the book, it needs to be in pieces. I think you need to look at the basic elements that make up a book and determine which is best course for your specific book

    Liked by 4 people

    1. It’s a romantic thriller, so I suppose some suspense should be good. But two of the beta readers suggested I added the conflict early on, so that got me wondering. I’m thinking about adding a general idea that reveals the conflict, then the details bit by bit to keep the suspense.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. More a flashback, but it’s really the protagonist facing a problem that resulted from that conflict. In the scene, she’s pondering her actions forward, how to resolve that problem. There’s a paragraph about the conflict that caused the problem she’s facing, but not the reasons for the conflict. Am I making any sense?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes. I actually like that approach. I think there should be some pacing as to how things unfold. For that genre, it sounds as if you’re taking the right approach. I like building to a climax and not being force fed info like an info dump. How many beta readers do you have?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The best way to find the answer is to study the great writers like Hemingway, or the great storytellers like Jeffrey Archer. What makes their books great is what to follow. The only danger here is that it might make you abandon writing as you realize you are not as good.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I usually like it more when I get to figure out the reason bit by bit – that keeps me guessing and that way, there’s more suspense 😊 However, there should also be a good reason I don’t immediately get all the information – maybe the protagonist hasn’t fully figured things out themselves, or maybe they have blocked certain thoughts from their mind because they don’t want to deal with the conflict right now. Or maybe they are so aware of the reason that they don’t need to speak of it directly and only allude to it now and then… I just don’t want a deus ex machina revelation where the reason is dropped out of nowhere relatively late. I guess a slow build-up that avoids info-dumps will always be my favorite way to go 😁

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I suppose it’s a balance. If I have some guy wandering through the first hundred pages doing stuff and I don’t know what, I’d get annoyed–so tell me his purpose early on–to catch a terrorist or rescue a kidnapped woman. But, the breadcrumbs (as Jill says) keep the story intriguing.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Interesting question. For short-term satisfaction, I like to know about the conflict. But honestly, in terms of what will keep me reading, and for longer term gratification, a gradual dropping of information would probably work better.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I also like the bread crumbs, Jina. I don’t want to be confused, but I do want to wonder and anticipate. Especially if the issue at hand is central to the plot and characters.

    If the matter isn’t important then don’t create suspense around it. I read a book once where the author made a big deal about not describing the main character and it turned out that the big deal was that she was beautiful. I found that “suspense” distracting and the reveal annoying.

    The responses you received from betas show how different readers are. One reader told me that she reads the last chapter of a book first because she can’t stand the suspense of not knowing how it will end up. That’s the extreme, but it points to the bell curve in reader preferences. I’d go with the conventional wisdom, which is to create tension by not dumping all the details in the beginning.

    Happy Writing!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Ha, when I was young and impatient, I used to read pages ahead of a scene to see how it would be resolved, then, satisfied, I’d go back and find out “how” it was resolved. Yes, sometimes I’d even read the last page to see if the ending was something I’d enjoy.
      I’d rather the reveal come slow too – I’m more patient now – but I I’m having this doubt because two betas told me the same thing. I’m thinking about adding a general idea that would reveal the conflict, and keep the details coming slowly. The whole conflict reveals itself early on -page 28 of 175, so the reader doesn’t have to go very far to find out.
      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts, Diana. Hope you have a lovely day.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. If two betas told you the same thing… that tells you something is needed, I think.
        I usually figure that if a beta reader bothered to write something down, it’s worth looking at. If two did… it’s really worth considering. Happy Writing!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Exactly. What’s the point of a beta reader if you ignore what they have to say? Alas, 2 out of the 4 betas saying the same means I have a tie.
        In any case, I decided revealing the conflict in a general idea then adding the reasons in snippets would keep the suspense, but not annoyingly so. I should’ve looked for five betas, haha.
        Thanks for the visit and the time, Diana.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. As a reader, that’s how I prefer it to be too. It keeps me turning pages, the curiosity and the need to find out more driving me on.
      As an author, well, I like to create some suspense too. But we can’t ignore the feedback – why ask for it if I’m not going to at least take it into consideration?
      Thanks for taking the time to share your opinion. Have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t believe there is a one version only answer to this. So much depends on the story – not just what is happening, but how it is told.
    I think you should write the story you want to write. You’ll never please all readers.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I think it depends very much on the book, the genre, the overall story, and the readers themselves. As for my own preference, I don’t mind a slow reveal at all but I also like a little bit of conflict to hook me up front. I say go with your gut, whatever feels right for your story is how you should write it.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I don’t have an answer–for me it depends on the writer and how s/he handles the issues involved–but I can tell you something about readers’ comments. By way of introduction, I used to teach writing, which gave me a chance to hear a lot of student comments. Some were just plain–in my opinion–off base. Others were thoughtful and insightful and good but still weren’t necessarily good matches for that particular writer. When I was a student myself, I saw one writer mess up a piece she’d brought in by taking another student’s comment too much to heart. It was better before she changed it. My advice? Don’t reject all criticism out of hand or you’ll never learn anything, but don’t take all advice unquestioningly either. In the end, you have to judge what works best for you as a writer and for the piece you’re writing. It’s a hard balance to strike. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll have lots of company, if that’s any comfort.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Ellen.Revealing the conflict early on wouldn’t mess up the writing, but it’ll take some of the suspense away, and perhaps make it a little info dumpy. In any case, what I did was add the general reveal in two sentences, then the details of how it happened in little snippets. The overall of the story stayed the same.
      Thanks for your opinion, it’s much appreciated.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. As you can see from all the other comments, it can be different depending on the reader/the author/the type of book, etc.

    As much as I love a great reveal, I also don’t want that moment just to exist for that sole “wow” reason. To me, there has to be something else behind it.

    Our character worries about driving a car throughout the book. At the end, we find out that it’s because she was in a car accident when she was a kid. Did we really need to wait until the end to learn about it? I don’t think so. That kind of information can be mentioned at the beginning. Now, if we are told she was in an accident and that she is afraid to drive a car right off the bat but the plot of the book is about her trying to adopt a kid and at the end we find out that her mother was pregnant when she died in that car crash, then it has a different impact.

    You give an example of someone facing problems that are a result of a previous conflict. I think I’d like to know what the conflict was. That way, we don’t go on wondering what happened. Instead, we go on reading, wondering how the conflict will end up impacting the character.

    So, I would ask myself: “Is this secret going to be impactful?” “How many other secrets are there in this book?” “Which one(s) are the most important to the story?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Well, you put it in a few sentences. I added the reveal in two sentences at the beginning, then added the detail of how it happened in snippets. It’s an important conflict, but it’s not the driving force, and within the first 20 some pages, the whole conflict is out in the open.
      Thanks for sharing your opinion, Sam, it’s much appreciated.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer…whatever works best for the book you are writing is what you should do. I don’t like to have the feeling that information is being deliberately withheld, but a bit of mystery is always a good thing.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I wouldn’t change anything if the readers were “regular readers” but those two were betas, and their suggestion to add the conflict early on came almost at the same line with almost the same words. So, I decided since this wasn’t yet the main conflict, that I’d add the general reveal early on, then the reason “how” in snippets.
      Thanks for the visit and happy reading!

      Liked by 2 people

  13. I would rather find out bit by bit. I know in movies I prefer that as it keeps my interest high. The same holds true for books, in my opinion. But you’ll never please every reader so go with what you think as you know the story the best as the writer of it!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks! I added the general reveal without details at the beginning since the conflict, though important, wasn’t the main issue. Then I distributed the details about the how it happened in snippets. And voilà! everyone is satisfied!
      Thanks for the visit, Christy, and have a wonderful day!

      Liked by 2 people

  14. I don’t want to find everything out in the first chapter. The thing is that there are many conflicts that arise in the course of a story. We’re constantly putting characters and readers thru their paces. I think we as writers need to remember that the reader is smart and they don’t need to have everything handed to them. It’ll come out when the story dictates.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. True enough.
      But again, when readers tell you the story will improve if you add this or that, take a pause and take what they’re saying into consideration.
      Thansk for the visit and have a wonderful day.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hey Jina. Yes, you have to take stuff into consideration but as you (the author) see fit. Always listen to what the field is saying and then adapt if necessary. Keep writing.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Btw, your page, when I click on your title, shows as deleted. I saw a post of yours not long ago on the reader Q and A with an editor, I think. So I think, maybe you upgrade your page? I’ve seen this happen before when someone upgrades to a paid plan.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Jina. Can you tell me exactly where you clicked from? My tech is trying to figure it out and all looks good at this end.

        Like

    1. I enjoy the bit by bit, but I think for this conflict – which isn’t a main topic or key – I’m not going to make it a huge fuss. Two betas told me – almost at the same line – that they’d rather know what the conflict was about early on. So I added the reveal in general terms at the beginning, then the details of how it happened in snippets.
      Thanks for the visit and happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I don’t mind being in the dark about plot points as long as I’m not confused. For example, if two characters act hostile toward each other, I don’t have to know the reason why right away. In some books, characters hint at things readers can’t know yet. I think the author was aiming for intriguing, but I’m just left confused.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I don’t mind the snippets either, on the contrary, the suspense keeps me turning pages. But one can’t ignore feedback from beta readers, so I decided to add the general reveal of the conflict early on, then the details of the “how” bit by bit.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I prefer the information to come bit by bit, yet it would need to be explained probably in the first half of the book, with a big revelation half way through, leading to eventual resolution in the second half. Looks like you’ve received a lot of opinions. Hope they help!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I had the snippets and big reveal all in the first 1/4 of the book, but with the feedback of the two betas almost the same, I went back, added the general reveal in the beginning, then added snippets of how it happened in bits. It worked and I got plenty of opinions to choose from here too.
      Thanks for adding yours. Have a wonderful day!

      Liked by 2 people

  17. it depends on the story. for all stories, however, I do need it to start in a way that I’ve got a sense of why I’m reading it, where the story is going. I liken it to buying a train ticket, not knowing the sights along the way, whether it’ll crash, etc., but having an initial sense of why I bought it…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, now, ain’t that a unique way to look at it. I’d never buy that train ticket. Or any other for that matter – I have motion sickness. But I appreciate the beauty of nature, even if I don’t know where it is – and here I’m talking about pictures. Haven’t you ever paused by a painting of some beautiful place, a village, a monument, or just plain nature, and thought – “that’s beautiful. I wonder where it is?” and the mystery just makes you take a second look, and a third?

      Liked by 2 people

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