The Balancing Act

It’s not easy to find that sweet spot that provides exactly the right amount of information.

The line between spoon-feeding information and being clear is a troublesome one, especially when you want to maintain some air of mystery about what you’re writing. Nobody wants their story to be predictable, though it should without equivocation be justifiable.

The worst thing you can do is lose the reader. I don’t mean the ones that don’t get through the first act because they lose interest, though that’s a problem in itself. It’s the ones that have stuck with you, that have grown with the characters, that you don’t want to lose.

Lose?

In the sense that they’ve been left behind.

None of us want our big moments spoiled before they’ve been set up. We set out designing the stage that supports our great reveal or killer twist, laying breadcrumbs that’ll lead back to the beginning, but we don’t want a reader to uncover it before the right moment. We want to keep some of it secret for a while.

The trouble with that is sometimes you might be so scarce on the details that the reader never realises when the secret’s been unveiled.

The reliance on a twist to build a satisfying story is part of the problem. It’s often seen as the defining moment, the one that makes a story worthwhile, yet this reliance means that information the reader deserves has to be withheld.

You have to realise it’s not your job to trick your reader.

Spinning around at the last moment and saying “Ha, that soldier was an anthropomorphic pizza all along!” doesn’t prove your intelligence is greater than your audience when you’ve done nothing up until the reveal to suggest it could even be the case.

If some of your readers get there ahead of your characters, that’s fine. It gives them a unique experience. If they are there side-by-side when they realise that there never was a diamond, they’ll identify even more with the character. If the rest of your readers lag behind, as long as you’re busy bringing them up to speed, you’ve got enough clarity.

It’s only when they keep on reading, confused, unsure of what exactly everyone is proclaiming “A-ha!” about that you lose them.

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