POLL: Is Your Protagonist Keeping a Secret?

Screenwriting was my “gateway drug” into novel writing.

I think this helps to explain why I’m so confounded by the topic of this post.

When writing a screenplay, it’s frowned upon to include what a character is feeling or thinking because it’s not considered “filmable.” Instead, the writer’s goal is to focus on what the character says and does, allowing for motives and plans to be neatly hidden beneath the surface. This can be tremendously useful when it comes to adding suspense and mystery to a film.

Novel writing on the other hand grants you the freedom of hearing the protagonist’s inner monologue, and in contrast to screenwriting, keeping your protag’s motives hidden is generally frowned upon.

So my question is: How can the protagonist be part of a reveal or “reversal of expectations” if the reader is INSIDE his or her head and knows everything they know? Even with an omniscient narrator who jumps in and out of the head of the character, it presents a challenge.

I’m not expecting a simple answer to this. My experience with novel writing thus far has taught me that there are no rules so much as guidelines and that ultimately you must do whatever it is that you feels tells your story best. Still, I’d appreciate the input of writers and readers alike:

One Thought on “POLL: Is Your Protagonist Keeping a Secret?

  1. Susan Qrose on August 31, 2014 at 7:59 am said:

    I don’t feel comfortable having my POV character keeoing secrets from the reader. My current story begins with a person who is ignorant of the actual situation in his world. My second protagonist is from somewhere else, and she drops hints about the secrets. Just this week I read that we get Watson’s narrative of Holme’s cases to maintain the mystery.
    Ultimately though, you need to write what’s best for you. Good luck.

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