Big Reveal: How to Hide Things from Your Reader

The Big Reveal.

It’s one of those things that you hear about but don’t fully appreciate until you see it done amazingly well.  This past week, my husband and I finally saw The Book of Eli with Denzel Washington.

If you don’t know this movie but plan to see it, read this post later because it is pretty much one massive spoiler.

You hear me?  SPOILER ALERT

Shortly after the movie opens, you learn that Eli is on a mission.  He is heading west.  You don’t know why.  You don’t know anything about his past, but it is important.  You get that because he’s willing to kill to make it happen.

This is a post-apocalyptic world of the ugliest kind.  Eli does what he has to do to survive.  He doesn’t harm others, which is more than you can say for a nice big chunk of the remaining population, but he doesn’t always help either.

Finally, you discover that Eli is carrying the last remaining King James Bible in the world. God has told him that he must take it West because that is where it is most needed.

But the bad guys manage to steal this Bible but Eli doesn’t give up on his journey.  You wonder why — surely he must have tricked them.  They don’t really have the Bible.

At the end, you realize that they do but they can’t read it because it is braille.  Eli is blind.

Whoa!   Blind!  This big tough guy that survived all this stuff?  Yep, blind.  You go back through the movie and realize that there is a reason he doesn’t jump into every fight he encounters (he isn’t just callous), he has to hear someone to fight them, he prefers to walk on roads, you’ve never seen his eyes.

Yep.  Blind.  A pretty darn important fact but one that they never pointed out in the whole stinking movie.  Sure, you might question that a blind guy could do all he did (including memorize the entire Bible when you can’t even remember your own phone number) but this is a Big Reveal that really and truly worked.

The director and the screen writer do not lie to you, but they do let you misinterpret various things that happen.  One of these is when Eli is talking to a blind woman and makes a comment about “us.”  You think he means survivors.  He really means people that were blind before the war.

I’ve never used a big reveal in my own writing, but after this, I’m very tempted to give it a try.


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