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For example, let's say that my protagonist has a special ability that he cannot die, literally, but he has lived a peaceful life and never been in any critical situation so far.

I want to write his story in third person limited, but I also want to give this piece of information at the beginning. Can I write some kind of hook like this in the beginning: 'Adam has a body that cannot die. He doesn't know that yet, but he's about to find out.'

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  • If you "kill" Adam too early in the story, it suggests either a "can't die" plot, because "who is the rest of the story about?" or that he's not really your MC.
    – FlaStorm32
    Nov 13, 2022 at 15:21

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I wouldn't do that. If Adam doesn't know it, don't let the reader know it.

If you have ruined the surprise, any suffering and fear Adam feels as he thinks he is dying will be lost on your reader. They already know he can't die.

When you write that scene, there will be zero surprise, they will just skip forward to find where Adam figures it out. They already know what is coming.

If you don't tell them, they will be wondering how Adam gets out of this, he's been stabbed in the heart,or his throat's been cut. Or even if Adam gets out of this!

They will be intrigued. Then they can identify with Adam when, to his surprise, he doesn't die.

Readers tend to identify with the protagonist, in a 3PL story (with one protagonist) you should never tell them anything the protagonist doesn't know. They should learn with them.

Once the narrator goes "omniscient" (in this case not only telling them something Adam doesn't know, but telling them the future as well), they know the narrator is capable of that.

That's the whole problem with omniscient, it feels to readers like a cheat if the narrator knows a secret and doesn't tell them. Omniscient narrators make it much more difficult for characters to keep secrets. Like they are a traitor, or secretly the birth parent of an adopted protagonist, or whatever.

This is just my opinion, but if Adam doesn't know, the reader shouldn't know, and teasing the truth will not make the passage read better, they will already know what to expect: Adam gets in trouble, he gets killed, he thinks he is dying but he doesn't die, blah blah, where does he figure it out?

They won't identify with Adam. Even though readers start out more than willing to identify with the first character they encounter. You will sap all the energy out of this passage.

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If you want to maintain a strictly third person limited POV, then as an alternative you could use a flash-forward. Instead of using omniscient POV to drop the information that he can't die, show it through a scene from the future where Adam experiences it happening (this could be when he learns it, or when he already has a lot of experience). After that return to the normal story time and work up to when/how that flash forward happened.

However, the same caveats that @Amadeus mentions in his answer apply: it can ruin some of the surprise and suspense. But if that is not important to the story, then it's not a problem.

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I've seen this done in a lot of fantasy style books. The open 'zooms in' from something like omniscience, to close third. It then stays in close third, usually. I've also seen epigraphs used effectively prior to the story start, given from a separate viewpoint or 'place' entirely. Imagine a famous quote used to set the tone, or impart a nugget of information, for example, before chapter one begins.

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