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So. I have a project I'm currently working on in which there are a number of characters who are connected to each other by various friendships/familial relationships, although they don't all know each other. For various reasons, all the characters must talk to each other in a web chat format in order to plan a project.

However, one of the characters (S) is unwilling to join this chat because it would mean he had to interact with a particular member of the group (L) who he holds a grudge against. Though I do not intend to reveal it at this point in the story, the grudge is due to L permanently disfiguring S in a confrontation between them.

Before his introduction, S is referred to by the other characters in relation to this 'incident' and the fact he has a grudge against L is mentioned, but what actually happened is not described.

I'd like to be able to show that S has good reason to hate L, and isn't just being resentful for nothing, without giving too many details about the 'incident', which I intend to have brought up when S abd L meet in person later in the story.

Are there any methods I can use to do this without being infuriatingly vague? Thanks for any suggestions!

  • 2 questions: Are all parties to the chatroom aware of the incident? Second, what is the nature of the audience point of view regarding the chat room? Is it from the perspective of a Participant (a character name P, following your naming scheme) and if so, would P be aware of the incident? Or will the audience have only the perspective of an independent unnamed observer... I have ideas, but would need the POV to best implement this. – hszmv Aug 10 '17 at 16:00
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Character dynamics come through story. There really isn't another way. You can simply tell the story in brief form to establish the dynamic, or you can dramatize it in full, but in the end, character dynamics come through story. There really isn't another way.

Now, you can certainly observe behavior without revealing the source of that behavior. This can work well enough if your main character is trying to figure out why two other people don't like each other, or even why some other character does not like him. This is simple enough to do. You simply describe their behavior towards each other. The question is, will this annoy the reader? If figuring out the animosity is part of the MCs arc, then the reader is likely going to accept it (unless the MC is being artificially dense in order to slow down the reveal). But if figuring it out is not part of the character's arc, why not simply tell the reader now?

Remember that the only function of a story is to give pleasure to a reader. It exists for no other purpose. There are many different kinds of pleasure that a story can give, and some of them do depend on withholding information (a whodunit, for instance). But for the most part, artificially withholding information that the reader wants to know is just going to annoy or bore the reader, and chances are they won't keep reading long enough to get to your reveal, however much of a big deal you think it is going to be.

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I would have a third party explain the situation. This character, M, says, "we can't get L and S on the same webchat because L won't talk to S since the day."

Readers will be clued that there is "something wrong" between L and S, and will be waiting to find out what it is. The resulting suspense could actually be better for your story than to have L and S confront each other early on.

Or, as one of my former bosses would say, "Tell me what, before telling me why."

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I hate to do your homework for you ;-) but the easiest way to explain this is... S wanted to join the chat. When he saw L was already involved he refused. He could never forgiver her for what she did....

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