What I read affects not just what or how I write, but how I think about what I'm writing. Since coming out of the writer closet and actively honing some skills (or attempting to), I've begun to read more critically than before. Fortunately, I still become doe-eyed with wonderment when I'm swept up into other worlds, but I'm aware of the elements which pulled me off the couch and into the fiction.
How does one story affect me more than another? Why couldn't I put the book down? Why do I love to hate this character? These are the questions I involuntarily ask myself.
Recently, I've read The Night Circus and Gone Girl (Book Report coming Monday) and they both feature split or partially split timelines, where the story is laid out with the current events next to the past events. In Gone Girl, the husband of a missing woman deals with her disappearance in the present while his wife's diary entries shed light on their past.
The books are very different but the technique used is the same. It left me thinking about the timing of information revealed to the reader. Not that I will be using the past and present parallel in my writing, I'm not that susceptible to the influence. I see how the reveals were laid out in those books and wonder when I should mention a past event that affects the current action. How could I use the placement of information to change the way readers view my characters, plot, settings, etc?
Sometimes it's best to be direct, but it may be better when the information is alluded to, or only half revealed and as the reader you are left suspecting the truth is one thing, hoping it's something else and it ends up being completely different than what you imagined. That's what makes you turn the page, that's why being a writer is still a profession. Surprising people is harder than it seems. You need to do the little reveals in just the right way and at just the right time to lead them in the wrong direction, then when they aren't quite expecting it you BAM! them like Emeril with the truth.
It's easy enough to understand but the trouble is in the execution. I know what I want to convey, but how do I go about conveying? I know my story, I know my characters, and I know when my characters become privy to details. I just don't know where the reader needs to stand to watch it all play out. There isn't an easy answer. There never is...unless you're Emeril, in which case the answer is always, Bam!