Psychological thriller opening: Spoilers vs not enough info


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Thread: Psychological thriller opening: Spoilers vs not enough info

  1. #1

    Psychological thriller opening: Spoilers vs not enough info

    Hello all,

    As the writer who knows the answers to how my psychological thriller plays out, there are many things I do not want to give away at the beginning of the story. Thinking Sixth Sense style, too much detail on relationships and even character names will limit me on revealing twists and turns later on. However, after receiving feedback from a handful of readers on my opening chapters, the majority said my MC was unreliable and unsympathetic, and they wanted to know more information about relationships with other characters, such as how long they had known each other etc, which would also spoil revelations later on. So instead of creating an air of mystery, it seems I have already put people off!

    Has anyone else encountered this problem?

  2. #2
    I think you might have two separate things going on here - your MC's personality, and the hookiness of your story. I guess there's some overlap, whereby if you reveal whatever other info about your MC, you undermine the actual reveal later one. In that case, maybe foreshadowing? Maybe set up situations leading up to the reveal that people would be intrigued about, that might cause problems and so on.

    But also look for spaces where there's no overlap. Have the MC "save the cat" early on or innocuously and passingly interact with some other character in a way that seems throwaway, to help flesh them out harmlessly without giving to much away.

    EDIT: maybe they could save the metaphorical cat of someone who they will interact with revealingly later. A seemingly benign, minor act that both makes them more likeable at the time ~and~ paves the way to a juicy twist later?


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  3. #3
    I think you might have two separate things going on here - your MC's personality, and the hookiness of your story. I guess there's some overlap, whereby if you reveal whatever other info about your MC, you undermine the actual reveal later one.
    Yes this is absolutely the case! I am trying to set my MC up as being a likeable young female, but later on it switches POV to reveal she is not as sweet / innocent as she seemed. But another twist later on again changes this.

    EDIT: maybe they could save the metaphorical cat of someone who they will interact with revealingly later. A seemingly benign, minor act that both makes them more likeable at the time ~and~ paves the way to a juicy twist later?
    This is an interesting idea! I did actually have something like this at the beginning which I later took out thinking it was unnecessary to the storyline...perhaps I should add it back in!

  4. #4
    Nicola,

    The type of questions that you pose almost always takes me to The Usual Suspects (1995). Kevin Spacey's character paraphrases a quote by John Wilkinson in his 1836 book “Quakerism Examined.”


    "One of the artifices of Satan is, to induce men to believe that he does not exist:..."

    If written deftly, you can add subtle clues, that as bdcharles pointed out, seem throwaway and inconsequential, yet in the final reveal, explodes the readers mind. A good baddy weaves their schemes with many smaller threads.

    On another note, watch The Usual Suspects if you haven't. Fun and mindbending. The end is worth the watch.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Nicola View Post
    Hello all,

    As the writer who knows the answers to how my psychological thriller plays out, there are many things I do not want to give away at the beginning of the story. Thinking Sixth Sense style, too much detail on relationships and even character names will limit me on revealing twists and turns later on. However, after receiving feedback from a handful of readers on my opening chapters, the majority said my MC was unreliable and unsympathetic, and they wanted to know more information about relationships with other characters, such as how long they had known each other etc, which would also spoil revelations later on. So instead of creating an air of mystery, it seems I have already put people off!

    Has anyone else encountered this problem?
    I agree that this is a more complicated problem. You should be able to develop the character sufficiently without giving away key plot points.

    For instance, you said 'too much detail on relationships and even character names will limit me on revealing twists and turns later on'. Okay, but some detail wouldn't, right? You don't really need to provide that much to make a character feel empathetic.

    Consider The Sixth Sense. We really don't know that much about the characters, especially at the beginning. I don't know what Bruce Willis's favorite ice cream is. Yet it didn't hurt the story, either knowing or not knowing that. They could have included that detail and it would have exposed some aspect of his personality, made him more likeable. They could have included his favorite sports team. How he drinks coffee. You get the idea?
    Deactivated due to staff trolling. Bye!

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