Withholding Information


Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 16

Thread: Withholding Information

  1. #1

    Withholding Information

    What are your thoughts on withholding information from the reader?

    Do you love it?

    Hate it?

    Or perhaps you grudgingly tolerate it, like that one relative who always shows up to family events a bit glassy-eyed, and reeking of alcohol?

    Do tell!

  2. #2
    I think it can work. For example, I have read stories with people who had amnesia. From my experience tension helps. As long as the character is left in the dark about something. However, my experience has varied with the narrator withholding information. The character that experiences this mystery needs to find it out and that can make the experience more exhilarating. This is just my opinion but if you want to experience it, we would have to cite stories that do it well. I like this story here which is free to read which does it well. I read it today.

    https://apex-magazine.com/face/

    However, if it makes sense now we need an example of a story that does not do it well. I don't usually think it is a good idea to spill the beans as to what important plot information could reveal too much about the plot.

    Anyways there are different kinds of narrators. For 1st person I like withholding. For 3rd person it might be trickier and the answer would vary.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle R View Post
    What are your thoughts on withholding information from the reader?

    Do you love it?

    Hate it?

    Or perhaps you grudgingly tolerate it, like that one relative who always shows up to family events a bit glassy-eyed, and reeking of alcohol?

    Do tell!
    If done well, I believe it can greatly strengthen a story - indeed, some types of story wouldn't survive without it.


  4. #4
    I write mainly suspense so it's basically vital.

    Not to say I have mastered it or anything, but I don't like to think of it so much as 'withholding information'. I prefer to think of it as 'providing exactly the right information in the right amount at the right time'.

    I realize that sounds like the same thing, but it isn't quite!

    Because I feel like when the mindset is "How can I keep things from the reader?" the tendency becomes closer to literary sabotage -- we start contriving to deprive the reader of stuff. We start to be intentionally ambiguous, to basically just be vague all over the place. We start to try too hard to be clever and literary and the temptation becomes to try to constantly mislead, deceive, or straight-up gaslight them. I find this can easily backfire. I don't think suspenseful writing needs to necessarily be thought of as continuous deception. I prefer to think of it as 'slow reveal'.

    On the other hand, asking questions as to whether the reader needs to know whatever-it-is at the moment in order to keep reading doesn't just help with creating natural suspense and intrigue but it's also a good editing technique -- even in stories where keeping secrets isn't necessarily important.

    I like to overwrite the hell out of my first draft and then on the subsequent rewrites to basically ask the question of every single line: Is this detail absolutely necessary right now? If the answer is no, I usually would cut it.

    I suggest that so long as our habit is to only provide what is necessary, the question regarding whether information should be withheld or not becomes moot: You can't really withhold something you need to make the story work, just as you should withhold (if not outright discard) something you don't.
    Last edited by luckyscars; August 6th, 2020 at 06:56 AM.

  5. #5
    Love it. One of my favourite examples is when the main protagonist is fetching tea for three others, he asks two how they like it, but brings the third Earl Grey with milk. It is only later she reveals that was when she was sure he was the person she met previously. I leave it so the reader might think I have made an error missing one for a chapter or so, but no! Olly does not make these errors. Well, I hope not
    Visit my website to read and connect to my 'soundcloud', where you can listen to stories songs and more
    Hidden Content

    A thread of links useful to writers wishing to learn
    Piglet's picks. Hidden Content

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle R View Post
    What are your thoughts on withholding information from the reader?

    Do you love it?

    Hate it?

    Or perhaps you grudgingly tolerate it, like that one relative who always shows up to family events a bit glassy-eyed, and reeking of alcohol?

    Do tell!
    I find it annoying in many cases. It has a patronising I've-got-a-secret smugness about it. It wouldn't be so bad if the eventual reveal was world-shattering or if it was part of the story, but often it's just look-what-I-can-do, I-bet-you-didn't-see-that-coming. To which my reaction is no, I didn't, because my mind wandered long before then, due to the failure of your hook.

    That being said, I'm sure there are examples when it works. I mean, if the character doesn't know the information, then me not knowing it is legit.


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    The first cut don't hurt at all
    The second only makes you wonder
    The third will have you on your knee
    s
    - Propaganda, "Duel"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous








  7. #7
    I think it depends. Sometimes it works really well, where as others it does have that smugness, if you are trying too hard to do so.

  8. #8
    Ahh that's me, Mr. Smugee. Can't you just tell I was raised in a family of teachers
    Visit my website to read and connect to my 'soundcloud', where you can listen to stories songs and more
    Hidden Content

    A thread of links useful to writers wishing to learn
    Piglet's picks. Hidden Content

  9. #9
    I'm uncertain if I understand the question. Are we discussing unreliable and first person narrators? In which case I find it irritating and perpetrators should be put in the stocks, and information of where the key is should be withheld.


    If a protagonist's withholding information or lying, fair play, it's a tool in the writer's pencil box.

  10. #10
    I'm another who has no problem with it when it's done well, but who finds it really annoying when it's done poorly - and I can't really say what "done well" or "done poorly" means! All I know is that sometimes it really annoys me, and sometimes it doesn't.

    I think part of it is TEASING that the information is being withheld? I mean, really, all authors withhold information all the time - we don't tell readers how the story ends right at the start! So I think it's only noticeable if the narrator alludes to the missing information? Maybe?

    I've definitely had some serious eye-roll moments when the teased information is finally revealed and is underwhelming. You made such a big deal about that?!?

    So, yeah. Done well is good, done poorly is bad, no real idea how to distinguish between the two.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
This website uses cookies
We use cookies to store session information to facilitate remembering your login information, to allow you to save website preferences, to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners.