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Giving away too much

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At the Big Sur conference last Dec. a screenwriter in my group mentioned, in critiquing another person's work, that she was giving away too much. It  wasn't a mystery,but he spoke about it in a way that made sense in writing mysteries. Her first sentence, while very compelling told too much and he said she needed to let some of that great info seep out rather then spill it all at once. Anyone have any more info about this? Thoughts? I guess my question is how much is too much? How little is too little? I just finished Please Ignore Vera Dietz. It's not a mystery per se, but there is info that leads you through the story that you are compelled to find out. At the end, of course, you learn the whole story.
In my current novel, I realize I need to go back and leave small and minor hints at what is to come and I think the reader will still be engaged. Hopefully   :aah  Anyone else struggle with this? (Please say yes) :oncomputer
#1 - March 23, 2014, 09:55 AM

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I don't have a lot of experience with mysteries but I do know that when I get to the end of a surprise ending type of book I appreciate it when I realize that I really did read all the hints before. Usually the clues have been so subtly placed within the story line that it was easy to overlook them but they still stuck in my mind so that I recalled them after the "big reveal". I assume its quite a craft to plant those clues and involves quite a bit of going back to work some detail into the manuscript. It has to be a delicate balance because, as a reader, I really hate when its so obvious that I have it figured out before it's revealed in the story.
My ms isn't much of a mystery but I do find myself going back and weaving in plot points to set up or serve as a foreshadowing of some action that is to come.


Best of luck with your ms 
#2 - March 23, 2014, 10:35 AM

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It's true! I don't bother reading if I feel like the writing is "false" or the story is not giving out the info the way the reader can use it. It is a hard balance.
I guess the good news is that you can go back and weave in those details and clues-Right now I realize that my clues are way too bi and pronounced for the reader. It's fun, though to be able to go back and figure out what needs to be changed.
Thanks!
#3 - March 23, 2014, 11:04 AM

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It's not just applicable to mysteries, it's true for many (most?) genres - you want to create suspense. Giving out too much info or answering too many questions up front kills the suspense. By asking or implying questions and then not answering them until later, you keep the reader reading. An article was posted on another thread awhile back that talked about this:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/08/a-simple-way-to-create-suspense/
#4 - March 23, 2014, 04:29 PM

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Anthony,
thanks for this article!
 :eb :eb
#5 - March 23, 2014, 08:28 PM

I've given this a lot of thought myself. Sometimes I include clues and other times I just leave the who done it more of a discovery by the MC as they go forward. It's better to know the entire back story of the mystery first although I've written books and not known the resolution myself. :lol5 A visual is thinking of the plot as a blanket with holes laid over the real story and the clues peek through.
#6 - March 24, 2014, 08:17 AM
PERFECT ENEMIES
LAST SUMMER IN EDEN
Cozy mystery writer for ANNIE'S FICTION

www.penmad.blogspot.com

I always worry about giving away too much so I err on the side of not giving enough clues and then I go back and plant some. I love a good "fair play" mystery in that the clues were there all along and if I had been paying close enough attention, I would be able to figure it out.
#7 - March 24, 2014, 04:43 PM
www.kimberlyggiarratano.com
Author of YA novel, Grunge Gods and Graveyards (Red Adept Publishing, 2014)

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On a related note, here's a link to a great post by mystery/thriller writer, April Henry, where she talks about tension in novels. This is from the blog site of Cynthia Leitich Smith:
http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/2010/12/guest-post-april-henry-on-just-add.html
#8 - March 26, 2014, 03:19 PM
THE SECRET OF FERRELL SAVAGE
Atheneum (Simon & Schuster) February, 2014

On a related note, here's a link to a great post by mystery/thriller writer, April Henry, where she talks about tension in novels. This is from the blog site of Cynthia Leitich Smith:
http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/2010/12/guest-post-april-henry-on-just-add.html

I totally enjoyed this post. Thanks!
#9 - March 26, 2014, 06:16 PM
www.kimberlyggiarratano.com
Author of YA novel, Grunge Gods and Graveyards (Red Adept Publishing, 2014)

I've actually had the opposite comment on an manuscript from a CP, that I was giving away too little, so I definitely think it's a balance. And maybe we all have tendencies one way or another.
I think there is a mystery in every story.
I do tend to go back and plant clues too, like kimberlygg says.
In fact, one of the how-to mystery books I like: The Weekend Writer Writes a Mystery talks about planting clues in the revision stage.
Thanks for these links!
#10 - March 26, 2014, 07:35 PM
twitter.com/enzor_jenni
jennienzor.blogspot.com

Love April Henry--thanks for the link.
#11 - March 27, 2014, 11:09 AM
PERFECT ENEMIES
LAST SUMMER IN EDEN
Cozy mystery writer for ANNIE'S FICTION

www.penmad.blogspot.com

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Good discussion and thanks for the links-- :eb
#12 - March 27, 2014, 08:09 PM

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