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  • November 29th, 2008 | 9:24 PM
plot devices - looking for a book

I'm looking for examples of a specific plot device.

Can anyone think of a book where, at the beginning, there is the revelation of a HUGE secret that the main character must come to terms with for the rest of the novel?

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There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 11 comments — Leave comment )
November 30th, 2008 03:59 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, the only book I can think of is THE MERMAID CHAIR, by Sue Monk Kidd. The first page (as I recall) divulges her affair with a priest. (Or was it a monk?) Anyway, I spent the rest of the book thinking, "Why? Why did she choose to reveal that in the beginning? It would have made for an amazingly tense read. Will they or won't they?" By telling the reader right up front, she robbed her own book. IMHO.

If I think of any books where a huge secret is revealed and the book is still successful, I'll let you know. I guess it depends on the secret, the consequences, and the author's talent. In YOUR hands, I know it will work.

November 30th, 2008 04:26 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the vote of confidence. I'm a little worried if I can pull it off or not. It wasn't my intention to give the big secret away in the beginning but my group pointed a few things out to me and most people think the story would be ruined for them if the secret was revealed at the end. Or that it would be too much shock value for the MC to deal with at the end of the book and everyone would be wondering, okay, now what is he going to do but the book is over.

November 30th, 2008 04:09 pm (UTC)
I turned around and looked at my shelves.

NOT a kid's book: The Accidental Demon Slayer by Angie Fox. (Lightly done, fast & funny--not a big emotional issue, just the fact that she IS a demon slayer!)

Try Stoneheart, by Charlie Fletcher.

Try The Warrior Heir, by Cinda China Williams (SP?)

Both these last two of fantasy, though, so it's the magic/fantasty part of the person that's revealed--not so sure that ties in with what you're looking for. Also, not sure how early in The Warrior Heir it happens.

I think those are as close as I come. Not probably what you're looking for, but maybe some structural help?

November 30th, 2008 04:29 pm (UTC)

I'm all turned inside out now. I was saving the secret for the end but my group mostly thinks the story would be ruined for them if the secret was revealed at the end. Or that it would be too much for the MC to deal with at the end of the book.
November 30th, 2008 05:20 pm (UTC)
Harry Potter
When Harry Potter learns he's a wizard, is that early enough?
November 30th, 2008 05:37 pm (UTC)
Mary Doria Russell's THE SPARROW - you learn in the first few pages that the main characters travel to another planet and everyone on the trip dies a horrible death except for one priest, who returns, a ruined man.

The rest of the novel is spent fleshing out what happens.

In the YA world - TOUCHING SNOW by M. Sindy Felin - the main character narrator says rather early on that people look at you differently after you kill your father - and then spends the rest of the novel leading up to the events where she kills her father.
December 3rd, 2008 05:09 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'd forgotten all about Touching Snow, thank you!
November 30th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)
I think the usual form is for the MC to hint at the secret in the beginning, but not to tell the reader about it until the end. Books using this format are Thomas's RATS SAW GOD (MC became a druggie after finding his girlfriend has slept with their English teacher), SPEAK (MC became a selective mute after being raped), ORDINARY PEOPLE (MC becomes depressed when involved in his brother's drowning death -- we know about the death, but not Conrad's role), and my own NOTHING TO LOSE (MC runs away from home after bludgeoning his stepfather to death). In all cases, the MC was dealing with the secret for the whole book -- the reader just doesn't know about it. In the latter three cases, the reader is led to believe that the MC is upset about something else (in SPEAK, that Melinda is upset about being ostracized over breaking up a party, but not that she'd been raped, in ORDINARY, that Conrad is depressed over his brother's death and his relationship with his family, but not that he feels responsible, and in NTL, that Michael is trying to decide whether to reveal his knowledge of his mother's role in the stepfather's death and her abuse at the hands of the stepfather). It is hard to write this way, but I think to do anything else would be anticlimactic. The trick is, though, to give some hint that there's something coming in the first chapter, to keep people reading.

A book that tells a big secret early on is Gail Giles's SHATTERING GLASS, where the MC tells the reader that he and his friends killed Simon Glass. But the book itself is less about the dealing with it (which is only aluded to in quotes in the chapter headings) and more about going back and tracing how it happened, as with THE SPARROW, mentioned above.
December 3rd, 2008 05:09 pm (UTC)
Great explanation and examples, Alix. Thank you so much!
(Deleted comment)
December 3rd, 2008 05:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! Two more books for my list.

And you're right, there's a difference between a secret and a premise. You might have just taken a big weight off my shoulders with that comment.
(Deleted comment)
December 3rd, 2008 05:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I'll add the book to my list to check out. And I'll be interested to hear if you think Ning will work for you. I liked the look of it. I'm trying to find something to move my teaching guides to and that might be the way to go.
( 11 comments — Leave comment )

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