Last week, Mike linked me to this article about 8 tips on writing from Kurt Vonnegut. For the most part, I agreed with these tips.
On the other hand, I didn’t fully agree with this one:
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
This information can be interpreted many ways: does he mean go crazy with the info dumps? Be blatant with your plot points? Indeed, if there are so many pieces of information that I can see the ending coming without finishing the story, then why would I read it? Isn’t that in direct violation of tip #1?
Some stories–particularly horror–just don’t function with this advice at all. I mean, if we saw what was coming in a Lovecraftian piece, would it be nearly as interesting? Would it even be Lovecraftian?
So what does he mean here? Well, I can’t speak for Mr. Vonnegut, but my take on it would be the following:
Seed your plots with enough information so that when your readers get to the end of the story they can see the progression, and the conclusion makes sense. Conversely, if they could not finish reading the story, they could, with some consideration, create an ending for themselves (whether or not it was your own).
(This still doesn’t work with some specific niche story types, but it does fit on a broader level.)
What are your thoughts on the matter? Should you give it all away at the beginning, sprinkle throughout, or wait until the big reveal at the end?