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lollipopsy's avatar

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Well if you know the locations and setting of the story really effing well, it tends to come out as you write anyway.
The guideline my writing teacher gave is this:

The central location
Wider geography – what lies beyond
Particular buildings, etc. - specifics in wider geography, key locales
Activities and Occupations - insider knowledge - what happens here - the relationship between what happens here and what people do there
Flora and fauna
Local customs - fetes, habits common to area - how they treats strangers - new years' customs- main streets - if made up place, make up customs, give it character
Soul - making the inanimate animate
xNuclearWonderlandx's avatar

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The more I think about it, the more I think I don't have secrets in the particular story I'm working on right now - there are rumors that are true, rumors that are false, and many more rumors where the validity is never clear. (: I can't mention them here because I'd be banned for 'sexually explicit language' or something like that. Otherwise, I'd let on whether a number of them are true or false ...

Like the one about Mia catching something from Jesse who caught it from some guy he 'slept with' at some 'party'. Read: rimmed at some orgy.
Small things (and personal values) aside, the only things I keep hidden from the reader are things that will eventually be part of some plot twist later on. I hint at these throughout the text but never give out the one piece of information required for everything to make sense. When the time comes for the plot twist, I'll give the readers the "key" and everything will fall into place.
Really if you want something to be a secret but want the reader to figure it out for themselves, i think I would put it some hints like in the way the character acts or others act toward that character or how characters respond to their environment. Just my opinion.
I've always wanted to write a story that made the reader gender confused. For instance, if I never describe the character's appearance but make reader's automatically assume that he/she is a her/him when they are actually the opposite gender. But I figured I would get too much hatemail for that, so it's been left in my brain to toy with sweatdrop
Rotsab M. Hyolf's avatar

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Howling
I've always wanted to write a story that made the reader gender confused. For instance, if I never describe the character's appearance but make reader's automatically assume that he/she is a her/him when they are actually the opposite gender. But I figured I would get too much hatemail for that, so it's been left in my brain to toy with .


I think readers tend to assume the gender is the same as their own, until directed to believe otherwise. I thought Katniss was a male for most of chapter one in The Hunger Games, which made the whole bit with Gale interesting to say the least. I think if you were too ambiguous the reader would just assume, and then at the end go, "Oh. Okay."

Or maybe not, I'm not sure. I've been working on a story where the character explicitly refers to himself as a man, uses a male name and is described with male pronouns; but characters act strange. By the end it turns out the ghost of a sister he's chasing is actually him, and the characters were being weird because it was a lady dressed and acting like a man.

Never be afraid to write something because of 'hatemail,' though. Anything you write can get hatemail; best sellers frequently have people raging against them. That's a by-product of the business.

In terms of secrets;
Yes. Usually. Leaving things ambiguous is more interesting to me. Plus, I tend to write horror, and as soon as you explain the monster's origin/motivation it loses much of its scare factor. I use confusion a lot in my work, though. I like a lack of knowledge, keeps the characters (and reader) on their toes.

Alternatively, sometimes it just doesn't make sense to explain everything. I rattle on and on about my character who's the embodiment of a black hole; this is something that will never be said. There's just no realistic way to convey it in a world that doesn't comprehend anything existing beyond the sky/stars.
marshmallowcreampie's avatar

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howIing
I've always wanted to write a story that made the reader gender confused. For instance, if I never describe the character's appearance but make reader's automatically assume that he/she is a her/him when they are actually the opposite gender. But I figured I would get too much hatemail for that, so it's been left in my brain to toy with sweatdrop


I once read a book that never revealed the narrating character's name. I'm sure you can write a story where the gender is ambiguous. It doesn't seem like anything you'd get hate mail for, of course, you can get hair mail for anything.
Not particularly, no. There are things I don't speak much about, but nothing that's particularly a secret. Then again, the inner workings of 3 or 4 characters minds are not talked about, because I don't want the reader to ever become too familiar with them. Two have lost parts of their mind, one is basically a succubus, and another has his own secret that he keeps for a long time, but it comes out eventually.
Endrael's avatar

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I consider that kind of thing unacceptable in decent writing, normally.

Fact of the matter is, if a fact can't be directly figured out from the text, or inferred from the subtext, it isn't true. If a reader can't figure it out, and it has no impact on the story, it just doesn't matter and the time you spent deciding on these little secret details could have been much better spent working on things that matter to the actual text.

The only vaguely acceptable reason to do this is to hint at it rather strongly, and leave it as a loose thread for a sequel, but plot threads are far superior for this purpose.

Problem with this position is that there are a number of high profile works where the author put extensive work into world building that never directly factors into the actual stories set in that world. Tolkien's work on Middle Earth is the prime example of this, and most D&D novels also fall into this area. Much of Stephen King's works contradict the need to not have secrets for the world/universe, as well, seeing as a great many of them are tied into his Dark Tower novels in some way or another but never directly factor into that core narrative, and vice versa.

Granted, an entire body of work has a different meta status than a standalone piece, but even so, making inferences to things that are not directly relevant to the story is one of the most effective methods for creating a sense of depth, that the characters are part of a much broader universe in which their actions may or may not be of consequence outside of their own particular goals.
LoperDoper's avatar

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It makes the story a bit more interesting if you subtly suggest one character is someone else or a plot point is not it all cracks up to be.

(Although I may be slightly biased as one of my characters who's quite lowly but it constantly alludes to the idea they may actually be God. But it's incredibly subtle, like a couple of dates vaguely add up if you concentrate really hard.)

Rotsab M. Hyolf
I think readers tend to assume the gender is the same as their own, until directed to believe otherwise. I thought Katniss was a male for most of chapter one in The Hunger Games, which made the whole bit with Gale interesting to say the least. I think if you were too ambiguous the reader would just assume, and then at the end go, "Oh. Okay."
I would have thought it relies more on initial impressions as well. I thought Tosh in Torchwood was male for a very long time based on what a friend said about them until they once said "...Lucy, Tosh is a girl."
marshmallowcreampie
howIing
I've always wanted to write a story that made the reader gender confused. For instance, if I never describe the character's appearance but make reader's automatically assume that he/she is a her/him when they are actually the opposite gender. But I figured I would get too much hatemail for that, so it's been left in my brain to toy with sweatdrop


I once read a book that never revealed the narrating character's name. I'm sure you can write a story where the gender is ambiguous. It doesn't seem like anything you'd get hate mail for, of course, you can get hair mail for anything.


Thanks for the encouragement! c: I really should give it a try.

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