how does your character learn stuff?

In a story – especially one with mystery elements – how does a character discover information? She can’t find it all from one source, be it a person, a book, a newspaper clipping. There has to be a variety of sources involved. It makes me think of Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling’s invention of the pensieve, and I simultaneously curse and bless her again for her genius. With a pensieve, Harry could drop himself directly into someone else’s memory and watch it as if it were taking place in the present tense. In a later book he used occlumency to travel right into Snape’s mind and witness a scene from his past. How else would Harry be able to witness these events, which happened years before his birth, firsthand? Bravo, J.K.

Seeing as a I can’t steal these very Potter-esque elements (aside from copyright infringement, these high fantasy concepts wouldn’t fit into my magical real story) I’ll have to make do with others. As long as my character gets her information from a variety of sources, then the mystery will reveal itself in a natural, organic way. Better: if she can get some information out of a person unintentionally –  information that she doesn’t realize until later is related to the central mystery, or something that she doesn’t even know to ask, that another character reveals of his own accord. Overheard dialogue can also be useful (though difficult unless you have an Invisibility cloak). It’s good to be wary of dialogue that sounds too informative, too convenient. These disparate details will, hopefully, come together and make for rich story-telling.

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Published in: on March 31, 2010 at 4:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

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