herlit11's picture
herlit11 August 18, 2014 - 2:27pm

Hi guys,

I'm writing a scifi short story in the first person POV. The MC is a cyborg, he knows he is robot and he poses as a human. The other characters in the story don't know he's a robot. In the end I reveal he's a robot.

Am I cheating the reader by not saying up front he's a robot?

I foreshadow and wrote hints and clues, like things robots could do easily but would be very difficult for humans to do. Information with double meaning, story elements with double functions so the reader could infere he's more than human.

Thanks

Hernán

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland August 18, 2014 - 3:53pm

Any twist can be great if executed succesfully. You've seen BladeRunner right? It's not cheating if you earn it. Especially if you drop the subtle hints.

herlit11's picture
herlit11 August 18, 2014 - 8:33pm

Yes, I was thinking Blade Runner. The six replicants, he's hunting for four. Who's the fifth?

Thanks a lot

Best

Hernan

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland August 18, 2014 - 9:18pm

Well Rachel is a replicant and she's not even aware of it, nor is the audience supposed to be for the first quarter of the film. Also, depending what version you watch, Deckard has been speculated to be the next version of replicants. That may be why he's so good at catching them.

 

madsmaddox's picture
madsmaddox from Berkshire is reading Fated August 19, 2014 - 7:54am

Deckard is a replicant, Scott has confirmed this, I think it was in the Edge of Bladerunner doc. The unicorn dream sequences and Gaff making his origami unicorns is meant to allude to this.

Chacron's picture
Chacron from England, South Coast is reading Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb August 19, 2014 - 9:08am

If you're writing in the first person with this idea then my first question is 'Why does the narrator need to withold it?' My two cents on this is that there has to be a reason. JR hit it bang on when he said about it not being cheating if you earn it, and that's the kind of thing that earns it. IE, it can't just be 'Oh by the way I'm a robot...surprise!' Like you said, you need the hints as you go through the narrative, but the reward in that twist is knowing that the narrator hid what he really is for a clever reason. Evade the authorities, perhaps, just as one example. How he uses that he's a robot while concealing it is really down to what you make him do throughout the story.

If you're considering re-working the idea at all, here's some food for thought. What if he didn't actually know he was a robot? That's a pretty difficult idea to pull off, and I'm sure it's been done before (then again, so has your first idea), but that doesn't mean don't try it.

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things August 19, 2014 - 10:01am

Yeah, it really depends on your delivery.

The whole point of writing in first person is to put us inside of the character's head and tell us the experiences from that character's point of view. If you're in the first person, and the twist is something that the character we're supposed to be inhabiting already knew, then yeah, I would probably feel a little cheated. If I was supposed to be living in this guy's head, then how did the robot thing not actually come up even once?

That would pull me out of the story to wonder why you, as the author, felt the need to keep that from me. The twist loses its effectiveness if I felt that you wrote the story around the twist rather than the twist being a natural conclusion of the story.

Chacron's idea isn't bad about making the character not realize he's a robot, but I would imagine that would significantly change your story. My idea would be to change this from first person to a focused third person perspective. That allows you to be in his head whenever it is convinient for you, but also to keep things hidden. The twist, then, will feel much more natural, as we weren't monitoring every single thought the character was having.

Many movie twists benefit from this focused third person perspective. SPOILER: In The Book of Eli, we go through the entire movie focused almost exclusively on the main character as he walks around and fights and shoots and such. At the very end, we learn he was completely blind the whole time. Even though he was the main character, that was an acceptable twist, because we were looking from the outside. If this story had been written in first person, the twist would have been nearly impossible to hide.

Changing the perspective might be easier than you think. Try it out and see how it works for you. It can leave your story nearly unchanged, while giving you some credibility in hiding the twist from us.

herlit11's picture
herlit11 August 19, 2014 - 1:24pm

Hi guys, thanks for the replies.

@Chacron: I'm rewriting, I have three versions. Your idea is what PKD did in "Impostor", I been working on it but didn't write it yet.  My reason to hide it is that he's escaping authority because he's programmed to be shut down, decomissioned, so he poses as a human scientist.

@Nathan: Question regarding first person POV:

MC does things that robots do, and would be difficult to human to do. Like hacking A.I., lifting heavy objects. But I try to give a double meaning to every one of this things.

When MC pushes a truck back on its wheels, I comment that could be done by a human under

low gravity or with a specific power suit. So this elements have double functions or interpretations.

I'll try third person, I'd forgotten about "The Book of Eli", thanks

Thanks

Hernán

 

 

 

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated August 19, 2014 - 12:10pm

It could just be something he doesn't think about often.  I am from Detroit, but when I see a buddy I don't think Yeah, I'm from Detroit I think That is my friend X. When he sees a friend he doesn't think I was made in a factory.  If it is 3rd person than somethings are cheating and some people will lose interest if you have readers thinking Why doesn't he ever show me his the bedroom he keeps brining up? If it is 1st person that he can either in character withhold it from the reader or just assume they know.  

Nathan Scalia's picture
Nathan Scalia from Kansas is reading so many things August 19, 2014 - 12:50pm

Hernan,

The question that I'm asking (and what your readers will be asking) is WHY you write double-meanings for everything.

I love twists, but they are very tricky to write effectively. Readers want to feel amazed, not tricked, and I worry that if you work too hard to set up a twist using double-meanings and subtle hints, then you really risk causing your audience to think, "Well, duh, that's obvious if the writer hadn't been trying to trick me," instead of, "Oh, wow! I never could have seen that coming".

Part of that is to do some verbal sleight-of-hand by diverting attention completely, and that's incredibly difficult to do from first person. When you write a first person character, then we as the reader expect to know ALL important information that the character knows. Anything that surprises us should surprise the character as well. If the character is not surprised, but we are, then that feels like you broke the rules of the perspective, and isn't likely to get you the reaction you want.

Chacron's picture
Chacron from England, South Coast is reading Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb August 19, 2014 - 1:29pm

When you write a first person character, then we as the reader expect to know ALL important information that the character knows. Anything that surprises us should surprise the character as well. If the character is not surprised, but we are, then that feels like you broke the rules of the perspective, and isn't likely to get you the reaction you want.

Well put. One way you can make a big surprise happen with a first person narrator that creates what you're describing here (IE a surprise for both reader and narrator) is to have the plot twist / surprise centre not around the narrator but someone close to him/her. I've done this quite successfully a few times. The distraction can come from some hints but once the narrator gets back to their own life then the surprise is neatly buried until the right moment.

Vonnegut Check's picture
Vonnegut Check from Baltimore August 19, 2014 - 1:39pm

First person narrators lie, especially if their secret is one they wish to keep. The Rules of Attraction, for example. Gone Girl, too, if I remember correctly. A whole host of others, but no need to belabor the point.

Although you could completely dodge the "cheating" problem if the AI was unaware of its own lie, if it too truly thought it was human; the Terminator with Christian Bale did this.

Keep at it, duder.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated August 19, 2014 - 1:57pm

I'd disagree here that readers should know all the important information here.  If you do present tense 1st person which is all the rage these days,  I guess.  If it is someone in character sitting down to write a memoir I think you have some room to hide things, or at the least a certain disunity between what the 'fictional' reader knows and real life readers know.  Felix Gilman did a great job of that with his books, although I'm not sure what is and isn't 1st and 3rd, and Joe Haldeman shocked me with 1st person stuff after a book and a half and several short stories.

It also depends on when you want to do the big reveal.  Last chapter not so much, but half way through yeah.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal August 19, 2014 - 6:21pm

First thought, I'd guess it'll be really tricky- you have to consistently (read: always) have him respond naturally with his inner monologue and all that without giving it away- but the second time through you can't let the reader say "oh, well that's not right, he should have said x-y-z and would have revealed it then!"

Like if you watch the 6th sense a second time, it still works knowing the ending, there aren't any faults.

That said, if you do pull it off, with those constraints, it will be AWESOME. Except to us. Spoiler alert.

Josh Zancan's picture
Josh Zancan from Crofton, MD is reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck August 19, 2014 - 9:43pm

It can work as long as the fact that he's a robot never comes up (and never needs to come up). If the story works out so that the robotic aspect of him doesn't need come out until the end, great plot twist. It's all about timing and plot structure. And if you have double entendres, fine. Sometimes the best way to hide something is to put it all right out there without ever actually saying it. So long as the reader doesn't feel manipulated.

herlit11's picture
herlit11 September 3, 2014 - 2:23pm

@Chacron: Thanks, I was playing with that idea too.

@Dwayne: Great idea, I was thinking about revealing it around midpoint.

@Josh: Do you mean like using the twist as a turning/plot point?

Thanks a lot guys!

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated September 4, 2014 - 12:57am

I like mid way reveals.

Josh Zancan's picture
Josh Zancan from Crofton, MD is reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck September 5, 2014 - 11:59am

That's certainly an option.  Kinda of rattle the reader around.  I'm writing a story now where the reader spends a lot of time in the beginning with an old, rural recluse, just going about his day, his chores, etc.  And the prose is kinda slow.  The intent is to make these tedious things interesting and get the reader into who he is with just how he goes about his day.  But when somebody else does come into the story (still fairly early on) and asks him a question, and the reader can finally get some cognitive thought out of him, see what he's like when he speaks, he pulls out a pad of paper and writes his reply.  This isn't by any means a knock-you-on-your ass twist, but it's in a similar vein, and I think articulates my point.  The reader not only didn't know, but they couldn't know.