I'm writing a sci-fi crime novel. Our heroes have jumped into the future, thinking their nemesis is ancient history. What they don't know is that he has followed them through time, and is even now salivating over his revenge.
Now, I'm already writing in the omniscient 3rd person. Hence, I could introduce our protagonist near the beginning of the book, and the reader would have the immediate tension of knowing our heroes were in danger and unaware of it. Or, I could drop clues as it progresses, building up to the reveal that he is in fact alive, which will rock the proagonists' world.
I'm not sure which will create more tension for the reader, and make it more page turner-y.
Do you mean antagonist? I'd say introduce smaller tension, possibly a chain of events that hint he could still be alive. They investigate, hoping they will be wrong, and all signs point to him being an old man hanging on to life through doctors and so forth, then they discover he jumped as well.
what makes page turners, i think, is either a problem that's immediate, or a problem that's escalating. preferably both- i use the second batman (with heath ledger's joker) as an example- it doesn't start slow, but still it's constantly upping the ante, never really fixing anything unless it makes everything worse, and well done to boot.
top of my head, i can't think of anything else that keeps you so rivited.
You don't have to begin with the protag, but you gotta be especially careful if you don't, because the person we first hang out with is often the one we ally our sympathies with for the duration. Which is how so many antiheroes are effective and we forgive their later faults. Walter White, for example. Many viewers were rooting for that guy right to the very end despite having literally inverted himself on the good/evil spectrum. Then again, that example was pretty gradual, but others come to mind like Patrick Bateman.
You don't have to introduce the Antagonist personally, but he must be active from the beginning. The antagonist is the counterpoint of the protagonist's conflict, so if he's not active from the get go, your story is going to be boring. We don't need to know who is thwarting the protagonist right away but the Antagonist must be active prior to the inciting incident and definitely has to be directly opposing the Protagonist from the inciting incident onwards. The two don't even have to meet for this to work (The Fifth Element - Bruce Willis and Gary Oldman never come face to face, but they are still locked in conflict).
Just my two cents
Thanks for all the feedback. I'm going to go with the hybrid approach - introduce the antag to the reader, but the protags are unaware, thinking he's long dead. Then gradually turn up the heat on them, until the big reveal - and then it's all-out war.
Dramatic irony is always an effective choice.