Friday, October 16, 2015

Something’s Fishy

I've been enjoying the 5th Wave series recently and I noticed one suspense device that I haven't employed much but may need to start using more.

Basically, the character ticks off the current amount of knowledge and then wonders what they are missing. The pieces don't fit right. What additional puzzle pieces need to be added to make the other puzzle pieces work?

To be clear, this isn’t a matter of knowing that you are out two or three puzzle pieces. It seems like you have all the information, and, to a lesser mind, all the information might fit together fine. People could accept it.

But the character still taps his or lip and thinks, something is seriously off here.

I think this tool can have two effects, and it worked with me in both ways while reading the series.

1.      It can allow the reader to have faith in the author when that faith may be wavering. There were times when I thought, well, why didn’t the aliens just do X instead of Z? That would be so much simpler? This is silly and doesn’t make sense! …But when a character thinks the same thing, it clues me in to the fact that there is more to the story. The reader is right, it doesn’t quite make sense as is…keep reading and you’ll find out what you’re missing.
2.      Alternatively, there were a few times when I thought, okay, I understand this….I figured it out! When the characters still had those “hmmm, something’s missing” moments, then I doubted myself. Wait, something’s missing? I’m not right? Better keep reading to find out what I missed!

Obviously, this technique can work well in any suspense or mystery. Have a plot that is kind of crazy at first but most characters accept it? Have one character wonder what’s off and you clue the reader into the fact that the crazy conclusions everyone seems to draw aren’t quite right. Have a plot that has an obvious red herring, perhaps so obvious the reader will think he/she is obviously the killer so why keep reading? Make sure to have a character think, hmmm, there’s something fishy with this.

1 comment:

Marcelle Dubé said...

Fun post, Caitlin, thanks! I will try that technique soon.