A reader wants to know how to use misinformation as a way to up the suspense in a novel or essay. She cites the teen cable drama “Roswell” as an example, where a character eavesdrops on a conversation and either hears it or interprets it in a mistaken way. Happens to me all the time.
Writing Tip for Today: If you are writing in 3rd person limited POV (he/she), your reader knows exactly what the character knows and no more unless it’s in a different viewpoint. If a character overhears a conversation and then misinterprets the info, the reader won’t know it’s a mistake until the character does. What to do?
- Give the reader hints with body language. The character who spoke the misinterpreted info won’t connect with the eavesdropper, because they are talking apples and oranges. Frustration always leads to tension.
- Let the character repeat the incorrect info to a third party, thus keeping the tension with the first two characters but giving the reader a bigger hint that the viewpoint character misheard.
- If nothing else works, you can use more than one viewpoint (separately of course) and switch back and forth. Caution: this requires skill. The worst thing you can do to a reader is to confuse which character is narrating.