This is about the hints that the readers should notice as the story progresses - and should definitely notice upon re-read.

First off, I looked around for a bit and didn't see any questions on this kind of issue, but please correct me if you know of one.

I'm debating whether or not something fits the 'style' of writing that I'm working with, and if this is something that the reader would find odd or notice at all.

Just to set the stage:

I'm writing a science-fiction story, but science is more a 'behind the scenes' kindoff element than one which the story revolves around directly - at least to begin with.

The story is told from the third person perspective of my three main characters. The narrator doesn't tell us anything that isn't happening via the characters.

A major part of my story is the thousands of smaller and bigger hints that are spread across every scene, arc and so on. These differ for each character and increase and decrease in intensity for lack of better word.

These hints are there to slowly give the reader an idea that "things are not as they seem" or "there's more to this" and so on.

They are crucial, as the story takes place in "our world" - but through the hints alone (almost) we learn the hidden truth.

A majority of the story is about the mysteries in the lives of my 3 main characters.

I write their thoughts, memories, fealings, actions and so on.

The debate:

For the majority of my writing, it has felt natural what to write and what not to.

At a certain point I found myself having written; "When she arrived at school, she had forgotten all about it." [Translation, out of context - about a certain hint that's reoccuring]

When reading the paragraph, it doesn't stand out incredibly. However, I'm 100+ pages into writing and this is the only place where I've told the reader something that a character is NOT doing, actively or not.

This is not a thought or something that the character is actually doing. It is the narrator telling the reader something that the character is unaware of having done - which I haven't done so far.

This is telling, I know. I'm well aware that I probably wanted to put emphasis on the hint, making the reader once again 'think of the hint', but I'm unsure if this fits the style - or if it's perhaps frowned upon. It's efficient - as telling usually is.

So, the question(s) is/are probably something along the lines of:

Is this something that a writer should avoid when wanting to let the reader notice the hints by themselves?"

Am I obsessing about nothing, or should this not be written directly, if I want the reader to feel as if they are by themselves figuring out that something is wrong/odd/off/different?

I should note that the target audience is teens + adults, but not children - Perhaps a certain style fits certain ages better?

2 Answers 2


You switched your style without having any reason to do so - just continue showing this via the characters thoughts

It's the first time your characters encounters this reocurring thing. Just describe it like it's the first time. Maybe you just copy-paste the same passage that you used the first time you introduced the hint. Or you describe it slightly different, maybe because the characters mood is different, or the timing (daylight for example) is different, ...

You could also make the character say something that will indicate that this is the first time they encounter whatever your hint is, for example in a dialogue with someone else.

Your readers will pick up on this thinking "I have read that before, haven't I? ... Hmm, strange...", which is probably what you want, while at the same time it reads as if this is happening for the first time and it feels like you continued naturally with your style.

  • 1
    I think it is indeed a switch in style. I'm wondering if it would seem out of place, considering that it reads perfectly naturally. I will most likely edit it to make the reader aware of her mental state in another way, but the question is still interesting to me.
    – storbror
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 19:38
  • 1
    @storbror Switching your style would seem out of place and would be a very strong hint because people would pick it up far easier than anything else. If it's possible you shouldn't switch.
    – Secespitus
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 19:42
  • This is probably also why I noticed it in the first place and felt the need to discuss it. Thanks.
    – storbror
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 19:47

I don't think her forgetting is a hint; you could show that easily enough in a conversation.

"Anything interesting happen today?"
"Not that I can think of. Why?"
"I'm going crazy, I swear I heard an ice-cream truck today, loud, but I never saw where it was."

The reader picks up the hint, or they don't. Another way to show it is to talk about what she IS thinking, she can have thoughts (be looking forward to seeing somebody, or dreading seeing somebody, or taking a test, or wishing she was somewhere else, etc. Have these other thoughts about normal life intrude upon her wonderings about your clue; so the reader sees the transition from WTF is that to "I hate algebra, I'm going to flunk for sure."

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    I follow the idea that the reader either picks up the hint or not - That's also one of the reasont I have so many small hints. The fact that she has forgotten is not the hint. It's there to signal to the reader that she is no longer aware of 'the hint' or paying it any thoughts.
    – storbror
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 19:37
  • 2
    I imagine that even if she is no longer aware of it, she may not have "forgotten all about it," she may be reminded of it later when the clues come together for her. My personal policy is to not give clues that mean something only to the reader. You were on the right track with showing only what they experience / think / do / say.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 21:22
  • Interesting point about the character vs. the reader. So far I've not given any hints solely for the reader, so I'm fairly convinced that this scene should be rewritten through her perspective.
    – storbror
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 7:32

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