Revealing Revelations

In any of my projects, particularly regarding novels/short stories/series, revealing information is a tricky task. I think that can be said for many writers. During the production of a project that ever present question of ‘when’ is lingering in the back of my mind. Then there’s the secondary question of ‘how’ should this be revealed. Both are important to the development of the story.

When trying to figure this balance out, I follow my characters. What does my main character know? What else do they need to find out to come to thus-and-so conclusion? A character only knows what they’ve been given to know (either by other characters, situations, circumstances, their environment, etc.). Since this is the case, a character can’t know information they haven’t been given, although they may speculate. But in the case of speculation, the character has to have enough information to do that.

Once I’ve reviewed what my character(s) know and have identified what they need to know further, then I focus on ‘how’.

How will this character find out what they need to know? I have to get them to a point where they can get more information. At this point I have to find people, places and things where this character will be able to find information needed. They may search seedy locales or gain assistance from shady characters or from a location of some obscure importance.

But when is it okay to reveal little information versus a lot of information?

First off, in my personal experience, it’s best to reveal information little by little. We as the author have the big picture which means we also have each individual piece. So, we have to spread the ‘bread crumbs’ out in a trail for the main character to follow. As they get more information they can start to speculate on motives and methods, even if they don’t have the big picture yet. This, in my opinion, creates an air of suspense for the reader because they’re speculating along with the character.

Each bread crumb should lead to the next. That means enough information should be provided in each crumb that will lead to another. I sometimes have a hard time with doing this because again it is tricky to know how much information should be revealed and when. It’s been a learning process for me and it continues to be so.

I personally think there are several different ways to reveal information it’s just a matter of either finding what they are and/or creating those methods of reveal. I also think it’s different for each writer because we each have to think about when to reveal and how. The preference, I think, suites the style. But that’s my opinion.

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