Make Your Reader Smarter Than Your Character
Some readers like to be able to second guess the main character, even if it is because the writer set it up that way.
And I ask you… which d you like better?
I say that leaving just enough clues for the reader to get the hint is the way to go. We’ve all watched those cheesy horror movies and seen the stupid teens go down into the basement (in their underwear)… alone… because they heard a noise while staying in a weirdly deserted house, right? We’ve all rolled our eyes and groaned. There is no doubt about who is going to get killed.
But when the writer has dropped just a few clues, just enough to suggest a plot twist or approaching conflict, and you—the reader or the viewer—put two and two together, and realize that you know something that the main character doesn’t know… well, that’s solid gold.
And the fine line? It’s like this. Anyone can come out and tell the reader or viewer that the hero is about to get clobbered. With some effort, you can leave clues that a few of your brighter readers will get, but the real trick is to make those clues both visible, and “mysterious”. You want all your readers (well, most of them, anyway) to get the gift of foresight, but you also want your reader to feel that he or she earned it.
My challenge to you is: first, be aware of this “trick of the trade”, and second, to practice it. Give your reader a gift. Make them feel smart, and they will come back to your writing again and again.
But then… you already knew that… didn’t you?