Thursday, September 27, 2012

How do we feel about the Bait n' Switch?

Hi, friends! Quick, informal poll/discussion today.

In one of my story ideas, the Main Character (MC) and the Bad Guy (BG) are both trying to get the One Thing (OT). The stakes are high, the tension is high, the setting is prime, everything is moving along nicely.

Okay, so what if a 3rd party comes in and pulls a "Bait n' Switch" on both the MC and BG, replacing the OT with a decoy? MC and BG still work to achieve their goals and all seems lost when BG "wins." But in the end, the BG realizes they've been duped and the MC realizes it was all a really long con this whole time, and they can still get the OT. MC isn't necessarily happy with this turn of events, but at least BG doesn't win.

There's more to this idea than the few sentences above, but you get the point. Is this "Bait n' Switch" idea too Oceans Elevens-y? Is it too easy for the reader to pick up on?

Overdone? Or can be used, if done right?


  1. I think this is cool if, like you say, it's done right. I've read stories where it's done wrong and I end up throwing the book across the room. But you're too talented to put me through that. :)

  2. Only way to know is to write it and get feedback. I'm sure I've seen it done successfully before (can't think of any examples off the top of my head though). Hey, if you've got the plot down and it passes your plausibility test, go for it.

  3. I think it can work. I think it depends heavily on how strongly the third party is portrayed and - even more importantly - the strength of your whys. Why they want the one thing, why they pull the bait and switch in the first place, why they don't just take the thing and run, why they don't just eliminate the competition. Also how MC and BG end up dealing with the realization they've been duped, and what this new third party means for them. The thing I've come to realize after so many manuscripts is you can have the best (or worst) plot in the world, but pulling it off all hinges on motivations and reactions of the characters involved.

  4. Well, consider that Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince has a huge bait and switch that had fans foaming at the mouth between books trying to figure out who did it. It was set up in a previous book, but briefly and subtly. And furthermore the bait and switch wasn't just a plot device. In book 7 you heard the full story behind it and that story was compelling and meaningful in and of itself even apart from what it meant to the main plot.

    So yes, I can be done really frelling well.

  5. I think it can be fantastic if done well. The tricky thing will be weaving the third party into the plot realistically enough so that the bait-n-switch is a surprise, but not a distracting one that feels contrived. The other thing to consider is what's the third party's role going forward? Do they become the new, bigger bad guy? It doesn't quite feel realistic that they'd do the bait-n-switch and then go away completely...

  6. Hmmm, I like this kind of story! I love anything with a twist, and this seems twisty all right!


I love getting comments. They're as much fun as getting real snail mail. So please, chime in and tell me what you think!

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