TRICKSTER

HOW TO LEGITIMATELY TRICK YOUR READER

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Tricking the reader is a bad game to play. For instance, having a character pretend not to know that someone is the killer, only to find out that she knew who did it the entire time is wrong. That’s not the kind of trickery that I’m referring to.

What I’m describing is keeping something hidden from the reader, while maintaining your legitimate narrative perspective. Here’s an example.

WATCH: Tortoise and the Hare
1. The tortoise and hare come to the starting line.
2. The race starts and the hare takes the lead.
3. The hare gets so far ahead that he takes a nap during the race.
4. The tortoise passes the hare and beats him.

These are the events that we can vouch for. But let’s look at the story from a different perspective. The events are the same, but the interpretation of those events may be different. This time we are going to allow the hare to explain himself.

1. At the starting line, the hare asks if the turtle had been training for the race. The turtle says, “no,” and the hare says, “you’re never going to catch me if you haven’t been training.”
2. The hare darts off, knowing what’s at stake: the turtle will never be able to face his family again.
3. In the middle of the race, the hare feels sorry for the turtle and waits by a tree and falls asleep.
4. The turtle passes the hare, but the hare lets him win, knowing the hard life that the turtle has had.

So it’s a little choppy, but it takes the same story and shows the events from the hare’s perspective. The writer’s “slight of hand” here is that it’s the same story with the same events, but those events are filtered through a character.

Let’s look at the bigger picture. Say you have a child who was neglected by his father for years. The child grows up to hate his father. The son decides to visit his dying dad in the hospital just to let his father know how much he hated him.

The son explains why he never talked to his father, and his father explains why he was gone all the time. The son’s mother didn’t want the dad coming around even though he tried to visit. He sent money, but the mother would take the money and never tell the son.

Now we can see the father’s pain through the same events. The reader hasn’t been deceived illegally. But what has happened is that the reader has allowed himself to persuaded by the narrator. If you narrate honestly, then revealing the other side of the coin to your readers blossoms an entirely different outlook on the story.

Thanks for stopping by!

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