Why “Little Did He Know” Gives Away Too Much Too Soon

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Professor Jules Hilbert: Perhaps you should keep a journal. Write down what she said or something. That’s all I can suggest.
Harold Crick: I can barely remember it all. I just remember “Little did he know that this simple, seemingly innocuous act would lead to his imminent death”.
Professor Jules Hilbert: What?
Harold Crick: Little did he know…
Professor Jules Hilbert: Did you say, “Little did he know…”?
Harold Crick: Yes.
Professor Jules Hilbert: I’ve written papers on “Little did he know…”. I used to teach a class based on “Little did he know…”.’ I mean, I once gave an entire seminar on “Little did he know…”. Son of a bitch, Harold. “Little did he know…” means there’s something he doesn’t know. That means there’s something you don’t know. Did you know that?
Stranger Than Fiction

*****

I recently edited a book that consistently ended each chapter with a “Little did he know” giveaway.

“Little did he know that a cancer diagnosis would soon change everything.”
“Little did he know that the worst was still to come.”
“Little did he know that his sister was also his mother.”

Okay, those are fictional examples of what the writer was doing but you get the picture. He thought he was building up suspense. But instead what he was actually doing was giving away all the plot points before they happened. So by the time the reader got to the plot point as it occurred later in the narrative, the element of surprise and all the other associated emotions that should have been felt in that moment were dulled by the fact they already knew it was coming. Continue reading

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