Reveal (narrative)

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The reveal (also known as the big reveal) is a plot device in narrative structure and is the exposure to the reader or audience of a previously unseen key character, or element of plot or performance.

A reveal is different from Aristotle's anagnorisis, in which something is revealed to a character rather than to the audience.


The reveal may result in a plot twist and could be the key plot turn or unexpected coda in the story; for example, in the mystery genre. It may have scenes in the future that reveal consequences of actions to provide a lead for what will occur in the plot or side plot. This may be the overarching plot line in a mystery or soap opera. It may also be used as a device (particularly in the climax) in stage magic by an illusionist or escape artist.[1]

Stage magic[edit]

In a magician's act, "the reveal" may refer to[1]

  • the normal culmination of a trick
  • the unexpected (to the audience) culmination of the trick
  • an explanation of the trick, which itself may be immediately eclipsed by a version of the trick that the first reveal can't explain.


Reveal is also used for two distinct cinematographic techniques:

  • A slow, theatrically presented image of an important character or item not seen previously in the film;
  • A close-up, wide shot, or other unusual camera point-of-view that shows the audience an important visual clue not known to characters in the same scene.

In the sense of first-time showing of a character, a reveal is similar to, but usually not the same as, the opening shot or Establishing shot that gives the location or context of a new scene.


  1. ^ a b Clark, James L. (2012). "Performing the Corkscrew". Mind Magic and Mentalism for Dummies. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. ISBN 9781119954002. Retrieved 10 July 2012.