|Tabitha Ann Holton|
What characters don't know creates tension.
My favorite example of a character's lack of knowledge creating tension occurs in C.J. Cherryh's Foreigner. The writer's knowledge of events, the plot, goes as follows: humans and Atevi maintain a tentative peace on the Atevi planet; the human spaceship returns to orbit; the Atevi are naturally worried over the implications and kidnap the human ambassador to extract information.
This series of events is relayed, out of order, from the point of view of the human ambassador (paidhi), Bren Cameron, who is kidnapped before he receives news of the ship's return. His lack of knowledge isn't contrived. It's very plausible and creates internal and external conflict. In other words, the writer's plot is actually told sideways--this makes it story. I admire Cherryh tremendously. This type of storytelling is extremely difficult to pull off gracefully; she does.
As a writer, remembering that a character doesn't know what the writer knows can be tricky; a failure to keep a character's limitations in mind explains the inexplicable behavior of characters in television shows. One week, the characters are suspicious of a new person; the next week, everybody loves the new person. The difference: the previous week, the new person was the conflict; this week, the new person isn't the conflict.
But how would the characters know?
|Old Police Station (Built 1879)|
|Alexander P. Kapp
It comes down to Point of View Rule 101: Just because I, the writer, know who should be trusted, that doesn't mean my character does.
Chapter 5 details Aubrey's second day with the police. This encounter occurred in every version in some form. Reminding myself that Aubrey doesn't know whether or not to trust the police helped create tension (and explicate Aubrey's decision at the end of the chapter).