This is related to my previous question.

Let's say I want the readers to not be sure of who my character really is. They'd know her as Olivia, but think she might be Beatrice, or maybe Helena...

One is supposedly dead but no one has seen the body since they dumped her before she actually died, the other is a more mysterious character even.

Would it be considered misleading if I called her "Olivia" all the time, until her true identity is also revealed to one of the heroes?

4 Answers 4


You are just talking about a twist ending, there is nothing wrong with it.

Consider The Sixth Sense, with Bruce Willis. A wildly successful twist ending, to be sure.


In the end, it turns out Bruce Willis was dead the whole time!

In your story, in the end, Olivia is really the legendary, fearsome, master baker Beatrice! Cue up gasps of astonishment.

The secret to a good twist is that when the reader discovers that Olivia is really Beatrice, and returns to the beginning looking for Olivia scenes and Beatrice scenes, you (the author) did not LIE to them, and you left them some clues, no matter how obscure, that might have let them guess this. Nothing Olivia does is inconsistent with her being Beatrice (or Helena). Olivia is never in London when the story says Beatrice is most definitely in Cork, for example.

Using The Sixth Sense as an example, I did not see the twist coming (even though on first watching I knew there was a killer twist!), but I watched from the beginning immediately, and sure enough, there were clues, and the movie never lied to the audience. Bruce Willis did nothing inconsistent with the rules (in this movie) of how the dead act. (They don't know they are dead, they don't see each other, etc). In fact, on second viewing, the movie and how people behave (like Willis' wife) actually makes MORE sense: A hallmark of a good twist.

So think of your hiding of Olivia's true identity as a twist, and write it like one. Not only is it okay: Audiences love a good twist.


I wouldn't think so. This is done some times in anime (to reference a more popular one Attack on Titan), where a character is known as Jane, but then we found out she really is some other person of the past that is connected to the whole main plot. We also find out their real name is Jenny.

I can see this working well, but create that mystery that maybe Olivia does not remember her past, this name was given to her by someone (probably at a hospital as it sounds like she was potentially in a harmful situation). Then she is spending the whole time as Olivia while the reader wonders who she really is throughout the story dropping clues every so often as potential real identities.

Or maybe Olivia changed her own name, and knows who she really is the whole time, but you leave minor bread crumbs throughout the story so that when it is revealed, the reader does not feel cheated and can look back and see the hints left on second read.

Either way, I see no issue with this!


In my opinion, if it was clear that you wanted the reader to be unsure, then there is no problem.

For example, if Olivia did not always answer right away when someone said "Olivia!" then you are being fair. Or if she thought Dang, it's hard to remember to answer to that (although that's a little too obvious). But, those sorts of clues.

Then I know that it's not Olivia, and I get to guess who it is. I am happy if I guess right. If I guess wrong, but the game was well played, I am still satisfied.


The principle I use is: Reveal every significant thing that a viewpoint character knows.

If a viewpoint character knows her real identity, and would think of her using her real name, it would be misleading to withhold that from readers.

If a viewpoint character knows Olivia that is hiding her real identity, it would be misleading to withhold that from readers.

If you want to withhold important information from readers, keep us out of the viewpoint of anyone who would know the important information.

Or (and this can be trickier): Make sure the knowledgeable characters never have a reason to think about the information while we're in their viewpoint.

A final possibility: A first person narrator can withhold information for the purpose of surprising the audience. A first person narrator can be "unreliable" in that way. The author cannot.

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