Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Guest Poster Winnie Grigg's ~ Story Revelations


Winnie Griggs
I’m so excited to be back here in Seekerville! I always have such a fun time over here.

Today I want to talk about Story Revelations. But first we’ll get us all on the same page with a quick definition. In the literary arena, revelation is defined as follows: To uncover, usually in a dramatic manner, a secret that a character has heretofore held close from other characters in the story and/or that the author has kept hidden from the reader. Alternately, to come to a sudden realization of a previously unrecognized truth, as in an epiphany

Let’s talk about the uncovering secrets aspect first.

Learning character secrets is all about learning backstory for one or more of your characters. Most of this backstory you’ll reveal naturally and without fanfare, either through dialog, or introspection, or one of the other half dozen methods available to you. But there are key pieces you want to deliberately hold back from your reader, those juicy secrets that need to wait until just the right moment to give them maximum impact.

And in order to give your really big, JUICY secrets more punch, you’ll want to wait until revealing it can serve either one of two functions:

1. To answer a story question you’ve been building up to in earlier pages

2. Or to introduce an unexpected twist that will send your story in a whole new direction or shed a startling light on prior events.

In the first case, where you’re answering a story question, what you’re doing is building reader involvement and anticipation.

Your reader will feel more involved in your story if, rather than providing a ‘this is your life’ account up front for your characters, you start with subtle hints that both intrigue and raise questions in the readers’ minds. This allows them to puzzle things out, layer by layer, so that when the final pieces fall into place, they feel some satisfaction in having deduced all or part of the picture. Let me give you a quick example.

In one of my earlier books, WHATEVER IT TAKES, I show my hero acting a bit uncomfortable when he sees a couple of men standing on rooftops to string a banner across a street. I don’t make a big deal of it and I don’t explain it, but later, in two other places within the next few chapters, I show him reacting similarly to other situations involving heights. Now, hopefully I was subtle with this, but by the time I reveal that he’s been trying to hide his fear of heights, the astute reader should have begun to figure this out for herself.

And that’s one of the keys to doing this well - subtlety. Don’t be heavy handed with these little hints you’re dropping, let the reader have the fun of ‘picking up on’ the nuances and body language clues you give them - it gets them much more invested in the action, and keeps them turning the pages to see if they’ve guessed correctly.

In the second case, where you’re throwing in an unexpected twist, the reveal is intended to be a surprise, something the reader didn’t see coming. Once disclosed, it makes the reader sit up and really take notice because it normally adds a whole new layer to the reader’s understanding of the characters and/or story events.

You might be going for a ‘So that’s why she did such-and-such when confronted with situation thus-and-so’ reaction.

Think of the move The Sixth Sense. Once you learned the twist at the end, didn’t it radically alter your perceptions of his wife’s actions? Didn’t you immediately want to go back and see the movie all over again just so you could figure out how the writer pulled it off?

Or, if your twist happens in the middle of your story rather than the end, you might be going for a ‘I wonder what he’s going to do know that he knows the BIG SECRET’ reaction.

Think of the Darth Vader’s classic Star Wars line “Luke, I’m your father.” Or of the revelation in the first Pirates Of The Caribbean movie that Will Turner’s father was a pirate

In all of these examples, the revelation of certain pieces of the character’s backstory were withheld until the moment when revealing them would have the most impact.

Hold back your character’s secrets until the last possible moment, make your reader guess and speculate about what makes him/her tick, and you’re on your way to having a page turner.

But how do you do this without cheating. In other words, when you are in the POV of the character with the BIG SECRET, how do you have them not think about it. You do it with indirect references. For instance, in the second chapter of my book, Second Chance Family, I have this passage:

Mitch gave his head a mental shake. That kind of thinking was wrong for any number of reasons. He’d made a solemn vow after Dinah’s death, a vow to never marry. It had been a bitter pill to swallow, but when he’d been faced with the reality and consequences of his own shortcomings it had been his only choice. It hadn’t been easy, but he’d finally made his peace with that aspect of his future a long time ago.

Or at least he thought he had.

You can tell from this passage that something happened to Mitch to make him feel he didn’t deserve to marry and have a family, but there’s no mention of the specific event. Still the reader has been put on notice that there is something here that she needs to try to figure out.

Later in the book, about Chapter 4, Mitch is leaving the boardinghouse where the heroine, Cora Beth lives, and he offers up a silent prayer.

Heavenly Father, I know these feelings I’m having about Cora Beth are inappropriate. We both know I’m not a till-death-do-us-part kind of man, no matter how much I wish I were. And a lady like Cora Beth deserves someone whose love for her will stand the test of time, someone who won’t hurt her like my granddaddy did my grandmother. Or like what I almost did to Dinah before You took her. So please, help me to hold my distance and to not do anything to cause her distress.

He hadn’t asked God for something for himself in a long time - the last time he’d done so, the results had ended in disaster. Would God help him this time?

So now the reader has a little more detail, but she still doesn’t know exactly what happened. You aren’t cheating the reader since when you’re in Mitch’s POV you have obvious signs that there is a backstory issue driving him, you just don’t get the full story yet. And these thoughts feel natural as you’re reading them, not at all like the author is being coy or cheating.

There are a few more snippets like this scattered through the following chapters until you at last get the big reveal scene at about the 3/4 mark.

Now, let’s talk about Epiphanies

Unlike our previous discussion where a secret is discovered or confessed, an Epiphany is when a character reaches a sudden realization on her own. It’s a high moment in the story, and usually occurs when the character has reached an important turning point or the climax in his/her character arc.

But to make this moment believable, a moment that will resonate with your reader and leave them feeling satisfied, you can’t just have it happen in a ‘suddenly it all became clear’, out of the blue kind of way. You need to set this moment up, plan for it, perhaps foreshadow it. You need to show growth in your character that allows us to believe she can get to this moment of realization. One way to plan for this and set it up properly is to have a good handle on what your character arc is. Who is she at the beginning of your story, and who do you want her to be at the end. Once you understand that you can figure out the steps that will get her there, and maybe have some idea of the triggering event for his epiphany.

During an epiphany, your character will reassess some closely held belief or value and as a result, will begin to view his goals differently and his entire outlook will likely change.

To illustrate, let me give you a scene from my book The Hand-Me-Down Family

Set up. This is 1890, Texas. The heroine, Callie, was born with a port wine stain that covered most of the left side of her face. She grew up with a family who protected her by shielding her from as much public scrutiny as possible. Now that she’s an adult, she wears poke bonnets with exaggerated brims that hide most of her face. Her new, marriage-of-convenience husband has been trying to convince her that the blemish doesn’t matter to him and that she should quit hiding behind her hat. He has even gone so far as to buy her a pretty, stylish hat that sits on top of her head. But she has seen how uncomfortable her face makes those who view it and insists it’s better for everyone if she goes on as she always has.

This next scene occurs near the end of the book. She’s talking to a friend who doesn’t sing the hymns in church because she doesn’t like her voice and is afraid it will disturb the other members of the congregation.

“Nonsense.” Callie waved that objection aside, determined to help her friend see how foolish she was being. “And anyone who thinks the less of you for it would not be in the frame of mind they should be in when in God’s house. You should be proud of that which God gave you, no matter what.”

The woman nodded thoughtfully. “What an enlightened way of looking at things.”

Callie smiled, pleased that Mrs. Mayweather finally seemed to understand how narrowly she’d been viewing the situation. She was glad she’d been able to--

The schoolteacher closed her fan with a snap and gave Callie a pointed look. “You know, that was such a lovely hat Jackson gave you before he left.” She touched her chin with the folded fan, “I wonder why it is you haven’t worn it since?”

Callie was thrown off balance by the sudden change of subject. “I just--”

Then it hit her with the force of physical blow. The heat crawled into her cheeks with a relentless sting.

Mrs. Mayweather smiled, aware that her dart had hit its mark. “It is so much easier to understand how others should handle life’s burdens than it is our own, is it not?”

Callie nodded numbly. Was Mrs. Mayweather right? Had she been hiding behind her bonnet all these years, not out of respect for the feelings of others, but out of her own vanity?

How many times had she lectured others as she had Mrs. Mayweather just now on how they shouldn’t be ashamed of whatever talent or burden God had assigned to them.

She’d been so eager to find the mote in other’s eyes that she’d ignored the beam in her own.

The story goes on from there and we immediately sees changes in Callie. She puts away her poke bonnets for good and holds her head high as she walks through town. It’s a challenge for her, but she now understands that she owes this not only to herself but to her step-children and her husband.

Both types of revelations - uncovering secrets and character epiphanies - are big payoff scenes for your readers. Take the time to showcase them and structure them properly for maximum effect. Make sure they flow logically from what has occurred to that point and that they carry the emotional weight they deserve.

So do you have any questions or comments on this topic you’d like to throw out for discussion? Or do you have an example from movies or books that have handled revelations especially well that you’d like to share with us?

And as an incentive to get the discussion going, I’d like to offer an autographed copy of my current release, Handpicked Husband, or any book from my backlist, to one of today’s commenters.
Hand Picked Husband
Free-spirited photographer Regina Nash is ready to try. But unless she marries one of the gentlemen her grandfather has sent for her inspection, she’ll lose custody of her nephew. So she must persuade them - and Adam Barr, her grandfather’s envoy - that she’d make a thoroughly unsuitable wife.

Adam isn’t convinced. Regina might be unconventional, but she has wit, spirit and warmth - why can’t the three bachelors he escorted here to Texas see that? He not only sees it, but is drawn to it. His job, though, is to make sure Regina chooses from one of those men - not to marry her himself!

Can Reggie and Adam overcome the secrets in her past, and the shadows in his, to find a perfect future together?

Note from Winnie:

In the interest of full disclosure I want to let you know that this is a refresh of a story originally released as Lady’s Choice under Dorchester’s Leisure Books imprint. In addition to the hero, the story features three bachelors who came to Texas as potential grooms for my heroine. I always wanted to give each of these gentlemen stories of their own, but Dorchester and I parted ways before that could happen. I discussed this with my current editor and we decided to move forward with the idea. But I wanted to make that original story available again to those who may have missed it the first time. So I did some fairly extensive rewrites, both to fit within the guidelines of the Love Inspired Historical line and to ‘fix it up’ based on things I’ve learned in the seven years since I first wrote this story.

So that’s how Handpicked Husband came about, and it becomes the first of my four book Texas Grooms series.


  1. Hi Winnie,
    Thank you for this post it answered some questions that had been in the back of my mind lately.
    I like the idea of getting the reader involved in the story by trying to figure out why the characters do as they do. Of course that is what we all try to do, but you explained how. Thank you.

    The parts about the timing of the revelations is also excellent.

  2. What a great post! It really did set the cement of several ideas I have floating round my mind.
    As for examples from other literature, what about that climactic moment of epiphany in the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, right after Davy Jones stabs Will, when Jack suddenly has to make the choice of stabbing the heart and living forever, or letting Will do it so he and Elizabeth can still have some sort of future together. You can almost hear his father, Captain Teague, in that moment: "It's not about living forever, Jackie. It's about living with yourself forever." To me, that is such a great example of an epiphany that completes an amazing character arc, well set-up from the beginning, really from the character's first entrance three movies ago.
    I think character arcs, character secrets, and epiphanies are in fact the most fascinating part about fiction--reading, watching, and most especially, writing it. Thanks for a great insight!

  3. One of those movies that makes you want to start all over at the beginning was "The Prestige." I was trying to figure things out as we watched and knew there was something but couldn't get it, and then when the ending happened BAM not at all what I was thinking had to be the answer. I wanted to rewatch it immediately, unfortunately it was 2am and everyone but me wanted to go to bed and it wasn't my movie. So I had to content myself with saying "Man, I wish I could write like that" and put it on my netflix list so I could watch it again so I could pick up all the clues.

  4. Good morning Winnie, when I saw your name listed just had to stop by knowing you would have some choice words for Seekerville, This sounds like some serious thinking and even we readers can glean some wisdom about our books we love to read from you. thanks for sharing today and I would love to have one of your books, they are always good stories.
    Paula O(

  5. Good morning!

    Thank you for your post Winnie. This post offers some new insight about secrets and I value this information on what I consider to be a weakness in my writing even though I know that these revelations matter to readers.

    I am a fan of your blog/website and especially of your industry interviews. These interviews impart so much insight to the mindset of the editors/agents that I am targeting. Thank you!

    I would like to be put in for the drawing, but I have most of recent your work, maybe one of the older titles? Thanks again,


  6. Hi Winnie,

    What a beautiful cover! Love Inspired has the most beautiful covers.

    Revelations are fun to read but trickier to write.

  7. Hi Winnie,

    Right now I'm trying to figure the best way to weave in clues to a secret in my story.

    I appreciate your post today!

    Jackie L.

  8. HI Winnie, Welcome to Seekerville again. We love having you.

    Great insights into the secrets our characters have. I love it when they sneak up on you as a reader. Thanks for the tips.

    Have a fun day.

    I have a pot of chocolate velvet coffee on hand and some homemade cinnamon buns.

    Blueberries and blackberries are ripe here in Oregon so berries are here to eat with whipped cream or put in a shake or top on ice cream.

  9. Good morning, Winnie! EXCELLENT post and examples! Definitely a keeper. Right now I'm working on "epiphany" scenes for both my hero and heroine and this helps immensely.

    By the way, right at this moment here in the Northland it's 49 degrees. Yes, FORTY-NINE. Just thought I'd mention that since YOUR neighborhood is currently in the low 80's and heading toward a high of 102. :)

  10. Welcome back to Seekerville, Winnie. Always wonderful to have you here with your excellent craft tips and terrific examples from your books!

    I love story secrets. Sometimes I let the reader in on the secret but leave either the hero or heroine in the dark. It's kind of like watching a train hurtling down the tracks toward a horrific collision with the reader wondering how the hero and heroine's relationship with survive once the truth comes out.

    Your new series sounds fantastic!


  11. finding the perfect time to expose a secret is so crucial!

    This has really made me want to look at my outline again and think about where I've placed foreshadowing, the reveal, and epiphanies. Thank you so much, Winnie!

    I really must stay away from those cinnamon buns, so I'll have a berry smoothie! (must get rid of these bananas before the next wave of fruit flies. ugh!

  12. Winnie, what a great and helpful post! I love what you shared about revelations and epiphanies. How do you determine the best place for a revelation to play out?

    Susan May Warren talks about a Lie Journey her characters go through as a part of their arc. These end in an epiphany. It adds extra depth to stories.

    One revelation I thought was well done was in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. There's a scene with Elizabeth and her sisters making the acquaintance of Mr. Wickham. Mr. Darcy rides up and then turns away. You just know there's more to that story. :) Then, when all is revealed later, every earlier action of Mr. Darcy makes sense.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom today, Winnie. Excellent post!

  13. OH! MY! You have given me some great helps here today, Winnie!!!

    Thank you so much.

    Can we look forward to seeing you at the ACFW conference??

  14. I love that you're pulling what could have been a lost cause from Dorchester into a delightful new "Griggs" series with LIH!

    That rocks! Happy dancing for you and all your readers EVERYWHERE!!!

    I'm refreshing the coffee... and sweet tea. And I brought egg rolls for breakfast, stuffed with ham, bacon, egg and cheese.

    OH. YUM.


    LOVE the post today ... especially since it really hits on what I am working on in my current WIP -- the slow reveal of those secrets in the characters' lives, so THANK YOU!!

    And sowing those subtle hints in throughout the book can be tricky because I always worry that I will reveal too much and ruin the big "surprise" at the end. In my last book, A Heart Revealed, I had a killer ending that God just dropped in my lap after I'd prayed about it because I'd been worried about the only possible ending I could see, which was SO obvious, there could be no surprise. After I implemented God's surprise ending instead, my agent wanted me to add subtle hints early on throughout the book, which REALLY scared me because I was certain the reader would guess the ending ahead of time. But, much to my shock, NO ONE has guessed the ending despite my subtle hints throughout, so now I feel those hints add rather than subtract, but it sure is a fine line, isn't it???


  16. Great post throughout, but I especially like the PS at the end. It just shows that when you've got good material, you should hang onto it. Markets change, and you never know what will happen a few years into the future :)

  17. Great title and cover. Thank you for doing this post and the giveaway.


  18. Winnie, what a great post! You've already sent ideas spinning around in my head on my current proposal!

    Thanks for sharing with us again. I'm so glad to hear your story, Hand Picked Husband, is having a new life! I love the premise. :)

  19. Winnie, what a timely post for me! I'm well past the halfway point in my wip and struggling to work my way out of the "sagging middle," and you made me realize I haven't really explored (or maybe even fully identified) my characters' deepest secrets. This is book 2 in a series, so these characters were already introduced as supporting characters in book 1. Obviously, I have some rethinking to do to discover what they haven't already told me about themselves!

  20. Hi Winnie!

    Character secrets and epiphanies add so much depth to a story, and you've given us the nuts and bolts of how to do it!

    I love adding these elements in, but I'm never sure when I'm being too subtle or too obvious. Critique partners help, I know, but I spend a lot of time trying to get the right balance. It's all worth it, though, isn't it?

  21. Good morning everyone. I slept in late today but what a fun set of postings to wake up to! You all made my morning!! I'm currently munching on a bowl of sliced strawberries and will be glad to share while I look over the other offerings here this morning...

  22. Mary, glad you found the post helpful! And yes, reader involvement is soooo key to having a page turner

    Chiara - what a great example! I might steal it for net time I do this workshop :)

  23. Melissa, I never saw The Prestige but now you have me curious - I'm going over right now to add it to my Netflix cue.

    Paulka O - oh thanks for the kind words! You're name is definitely going in the hat!

  24. Piper - so glad you found some takeaways from this post, oh and thanks for plugging my industry interviews! Those are fun to do and I love getting these glimpses into how editors and agents think.

    Rose - yes, the LIH art department always does a fabulous job.

  25. Great ideas Winnie. Congratulations on the re-release. :) I can't wait to read this one.

    Jodie Wolfe

  26. Hi Winnie:

    Your revelations are part of what I call ‘anticipatory events’ (things readers look forward to) and they are very powerful in keeping the reader’s interest. I enjoy these as a reader because they do not have to result in an increase of conflict or tension.

    A whole story built on increasing tension is like listening to a siren getting ever louder and louder: it may keep your attention but it is too annoying to put up with for very long.

    My favorite revelation happens when the author builds a logical foundation and leaves subtle clues which lead the reader to exactly the opposite conclusion. The reader thinks he has out guessed the author and very smugly awaits the revelation but when it comes the reader discovers he has it backwards. When the reader looks back over the clues he sees that the facts fully support the tricky outcome as well as the most obvious but wrong conclusion. Any author that can do this to a reader makes the reader want to read more of that author’s books. Even if it is just to have another chance to beat her to the punch.

    Julie Lessman (great minds and all that) beat me to the punch this morning! My favorite revelation, (which by the way induces more character epiphanies than than are in the Bible), is in “A Heart Revealed” . I was convinced that the story had to have a very predictable cliché ending (it seemed as if that was all that was possible) and then the totally unexpected happened.

    I was ready to object but when I looked back over the story, all the facts supported the ending. In fact, as you mentioned about in the movie "The Sixth Sense", I went back on my Kindle and scanned the relevant scenes and the genius of the ending became even more evident. I was skunked as we used to say in New Jersey.

    You can fool me once but next time I think I’m going to be ready for any Lessman surprise. I think other writers will be highly rewarded by reading “A Heart Revealed.”


    P.S. I think the idea for your new series is ideal. Four stories. A lot may depend on having an interesting setting and memorable (quirky) secondary characters. Please enter me for a drawing. vmres (at) swbell (dot) net (I'm going to buy the book for my Kindle anyway but I'd still like an autographed copy. I love to study your writing.)

  27. I love being teased by an author. The surprises in a story stay with me long after I've closed the covers.

  28. Hi Winnie:

    Along the lines of your topic today, I had a super surprise revelation (with two character epiphanies) last night when my Kindle tricked me! I was reading “The Colonel’s Daughter” by Debby Giusti, and the progress indicator said I was 88% into the story when the story juar exploded in a great ending! I thought there was a lot more story to go so the ending was so unexpected, it just knocked my socks off! I don’t know if that will ever happen again.

    I know an author can’t plan on having a sample chapter appear at the end of her novel but if there is one and there is also a big bang surprise ending, it doesn’t get better than that for a reader.

    I suggest anyone read “The Colonel’s Daugher” on a Kindle or Nook. That’s another neat thing about ebooks!


    P.S. Today is the last day to enter the "Melody of Love" contest. I hope I can make it! It's wonderful. You get to compete against award winning authors. How fun. : )

  29. Jackie - hinting and foreshadowing can be very tricky to execute, they do take a lot of thought. On the other hand, sometimes I discover that I subconsciously planted the clues I needed without even realizing it - love it when that happens!

    Sandra - mmmmmc hocolate and cinnamon buns. There goes the diet!!

  30. Glynna - oh wow -49 degrees! That sounds absolutely lovely. Any day below 95 here this time of year feels like a cold snap :)

    Janet - Aren't secrets fun! And yes, sometiumes letting the reader in on things but not the other characters can really ramp up the story tension for the reader.

  31. Debra - you're welcome! (and I'm with you on the cinnamon buns!)

    Jeanne - as for determining where to place your revelations - it is part science and part gut. You need to place them where they will have the most impact and give the story the impetus it needs to move to the next stage.
    Ooooh - I like the term Lie Journey - it so fits!

  32. Tina - glad you enjoyed the post. And ABSOLUTELY I'll be at ACFW - wouldn't miss it!

    Ruth - Hi! thanks for the congrats on the new series - it is so wonderful to finally be able to write those three stories that have been with me for sooooo long. And those egg rolls sound yummy - I may hve to dig in and call it brunch!

  33. Winnie,

    Wonderful post! Secrets and epiphanies are so tricky to write. I'm wrestling with one story right now. Especially the whole idea of the hero/heroine knowing the secret and not revealing it in their POV!

    Thanks for this and especially for the examples which make the lesson so much easier to understand!

    Love your writing, btw!

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  34. Julie - thanks for the warm welcome! And I hear you about trying toi be subtle, it's something I struggle with as well. But it sounds as if you've definitely mastered the art.

    Mia - Thanks! And you're so right about holding onto material. God's timing often surprises us.

  35. Wendy - thanks! And as for the title, I've learned I have to be carefu to enunciate properly when discussing the book with folks - one lady thought I'd said HENPECKED Husband!!!

    Missy - Hi! Glad to help! And yes, I'm pretty excited about this new series!

  36. Winnie~

    Recently God planted a big detail about my hero into my mind. I'd love to say "I came up with it." But that just wouldn't be true.

    It adds a layer of motivation to some of his actions and opinions. And it ups the conflict factor by quite a measure. But I'm still chewing on how much to reveal and when.

    This post reminds me how important that is. I can't just flop it out there and expect people to go with the flow.

    One story with a completely unexpected twist at the end was Janet Dean's Wanted: A Family. I just never saw it coming.

    Your newest book, and the whole series, sounds wonderful. Please enter me.

    andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

  37. Myra - oh how I can relate to your post. Stories that feature secondary characters from other books can be so tricky to write - that's what I'm working on now as well. You have to live with choices you made well before you fully explored the new story and you also have to find ways to surprise the reader with a character they thought they already knew. It can be a very tricky thing to do.

  38. Winnie, I love your books! We met briefly at the last two RWA conferences, and you're as humble a they come. You offer such great advice here. I always enjoy how you thread secrets through your book as with the example you gave in your post - the man concerned with heights. You have mastered that in your writing.

    My,I love when a clue happens! When that brain is engaged, I am amazed how those pieces come together. The trick for me is to keep writing, even though I don't know how it's going together sometimes. I have to plow ahead and trust that the brain will follow-through with the plan on my "pantser's attempted" outline!

  39. Jan - Absolutely worth it! Because these are among the biggest sit-up-and-take-notice payoff scenes for readers.

    Jodie - Thanks!

  40. Vince - hi! Always great to hear from you. Your comments about 'anticipatory events' are right on the money. And thanks for the PS!

    Connie - Hi! Thanks for stopping by

  41. Susan - best of luck with your current story! I know you can pull it off, but yes it can be tricky. And thanks for the nice words about my writing!

    Andrea - aren't those little gifts from God so precious. Thanks for stopping by, and yes, you are most definitely entered.

  42. Vince, I loved your thoughts on tension and revelations. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. :)

    WINNIE--I forgot to mention earlier, that I'd love to be entered into the drawing.

    I keep forgetting to mention that in my comments. Oh well. :)

  43. Jeannie, no worries, everyone wh comments is entered unless the ask not to be!

  44. Sounds like an interesting read. I love when stories focus on the guys. It's a nice change. Please count me in. :D

    I agree with how you handle the story revelations. One thing I hate is when the author doesn't give anything away for nearly the entire book and then uses it as a bomb at the end. I've read books that frustrate me. They don't give as many hints as you've suggested. They don't add a little more each time it pops up in the readers minds. It's the same way all the way through and it's frustrating.

    An editor told me one time that I needed to reveal more at the beginning of my story. That in my trying to hook and be mysterious, I wasn't allowing the reader to want to jump on the heroines band wagon. I've made changes to fix that, yet I've read books that do exactly what that editor said I was doing. That's the reason I did it. I thought that's how it was supposed to be done.

    Anyway, just a word of caution not to go overboard, I guess. Thanks, Winnie! :D

  45. I love story secrets too. I think the mark of a great storyteller is how well they keep the secret--and the reader guessing--and yet making it all believable when the secret is revealed.

  46. Linnette - I agree that an out of the blue revelation just leaves a reader feeling cheated - there MUST be some logic and foreshadowing (no matter how subtle) to it for it to be satisfying.

    Patricia - Amen to that! Thanks for stopping by.

  47. LOL, VINCE -- GOTCHA!! Well, actually God got ya ... but He everybody else too!!

    I think I told you how I was so discouraged because the ending to Emma's story was SO darn predictable and you KNOW how I love a surprise!

    So here I am sitting there on my lower deck one day in the fall and say to God, "God--you are the Creator of creativity. You have the perfect ending to this story that will blow people away, so could you please tell me what it is?" And I swear on a stack of Bibles, not ten seconds passed before this idea slowly drifted down into my brain just like those scarlet and gold leaves were drifting from the trees. I still remember jolting straight up in the chaise lounge and laughing out loud because the idea was SO genius and SO God!! So God gets ALL the credit for stumping you and everybody else ... including me!!

    And as far as sowing those hints and clues throughout? That was pure genius on the part of my agent who said exactly what you said -- that people would object unless I laid a trail of crumbs, which I did. But I STILL worried that cerebral people like you, Vincent, would figure it out. I'm pleased you didn't. ;)

    Now ... let's see if I can stump you on Steven's story ...

    Thanks for reading my books, Vince!


  48. Hmm... Winnie, I think I didn't explain that very clearly. So sorry!

    They have these "foreshadowing" scenes that give you no information. They leave you wondering why the character is acting this way, but there are no hints. And as time goes on, the scene that pops up is the same with no new info. Just that you know there is SOMETHING that happened to the character simply from their reaction but you're never really allowed into their heads on whatever it is. Not even a little.

    I like the way you did it. You left little bread crumb trails that led you closer and closer to figuring it out. The other way just leaves you totally frustrated.

    Does that make sense?

  49. Winnie,
    I always learn so much when you're the guest blogger on Seekerville.

    Great info today. Loved the example from your book that showcased the epiphany moment for your heroine with the birthmark. Nicely done for sure.

    Congrats on your new book and upcoming series about the grooms. Sounds like a fun premise that will make each book a hit!

  50. Winnie, thanks for your great post! Very helpful tips.

  51. Thank you for a fantastic post which sheds light on the inside workings of my favorite part of stories. I can never resist a secret.

    Please enter me in the book draw.

  52. Linnette - Thanks for the clarification - and the compliment!

    Debby - Thanks for such sweet words.

    Cara - glad you found it helpful!

    Ruth Ann - I'm with you - secrets ARE fun!

  53. My daughter always calls epiphanies "light bulb moments". So true.

    Count me in for the book thank you.


  54. Thanks for the post.

    I just popped over to B&N and bought my copy of Handpicked Husband. Can't wait to read this book.

  55. Winnie,

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  56. Patricia!!! Thanks so much!

    Edwina - so glad you enjoyed the post