Friday, November 21, 2008

The Slow Reveal

I'm sure there's a typology of short stories - the surprise ending etc. - but I'm not sure if the one that I particular specialise in is there. I guess what I write tends to be "the slow reveal". The story has always been there, or the point of the story, and what I've done in writing it is to put a cloak around it, but then I slowly reveal it all. The slow reveal seems to have three distinct parts - the first is scene describing, the set up, nothing particular to do with the story itself, but you meet a character or a place, or several characters and they're doing something that may or may not be relevant to the story. So thats not what the story's about. Then, half way through, two thirds through something happens, a jolt, an event, a chance meeting. But thats not what the story's about either. And then, in the end, it could be a page, a word, a paragraph, a sentence, but the story that's been there all along. I don't think its a twist. I think a twist is sometimes from another story completely, whilst the slow reveal shows something that's always been there, the thing that the story's about. I guess you find it alot in Sherwood Anderson, quite a bit in Fitzgerald, in Cheever, even in Salinger. For me it has both "truth" and "artifice" - truth because everything in the story has to be a fitting cloak, and artifice because, clearly you could have said, in a line, "this man abuses children", or "this person's fortune is based on a lie." In a novel I think the "slow reveal" feels like a cheat - you find it in "The Gathering" or "Atonement" - but in the short story, I think it has all the elements of tension I'm asking for, mainly because its not about our secrets, but about what we'd rather hide, which is a different thing entirely. (Clearest example from my stories online: "A Cold Night For Drowning")

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