Monday, March 15, 2010

Beware the Ides

[And other such Death Threats]

I gotta say, if someone was gunna murder me, I don't think I'd want to know in advance (unless of course there would then be some chance to change the course of events). But in literature, I LOVE the foreshadowing.




Prophecies, Oracles and Tea Leaves

The full on prediction of death tends to be the stuff of fantasy, because lets face it, how often does anything realistic have something like it? My very favorite kind are the prophecies, which by the hearing, cause action, which in turn is what brings it about—had nobody heard, nobody would have acted, and it then would NOT have happened (and nobody would be the wiser, eh?). But whatever seer, teller, or gypsy that passes on the vision, it is a greater power than is actually found among mere mortals (at least none of my friends can do it, though I know a few Tarot readers).


The More Subtle Variety

Literature symbolism is something that I always love, but generally need somebody with a Literature degree to point out for me: ohhh, the crows on his front lawn means death is coming to his house! Seriously? What do the crows that congregate across the street from me mean? *shivers * There are a thousand things that happen that somebody would tell you foreshadow death, and I'd bet some portion were even done on purpose by the author *cough*. I'm being facetious, because I've had very clever foreshadowing attributions made on my work when I didn't do it on purpose, and I think it can be tempting to misattribute something that was just a detail—not real foreshadowing. And what about the 999 foreshadowing events that AREN'T there? Is there a point lack of foreshadowing means somebody is safe? (I thought not).

I guess what I'm saying, is while I like this, I probably don't have the background to DO much of it, and it is sort of an effort lost on me anyway.


An In Between

What I CAN spot, and may even be able to DO is a little more 'run of the mill' foreshadowing. I can ALSO spot when it is NOT there and point at the 'deus ex machina' as poor writing *cough*Twilight*cough*. Coming out of left field, in the case of Myer, quite literally, with something that had no lead in or foreshadowing is just plain sloppy. How might she have handled it better? Whispered ghost stories among friends that oh... INCLUDE the baseball crap? Or about the dueling tribes (or whatever they are) of vampires—a whispered warning that certain perfumes cause all the supernatural creatures to be drawn to the same freaking girl?

A little foreshadowing could have salvaged that story—made what is stupidly INCREDIBLE into something a person can suspend their disbelief on.



So What Does it Mean for Us?

Two options.

1)  Plan ahead and know where you are going—if you want to only know vaguely? Fine. If you want two or three possible endings? Fine. But if you just write linearly, you have to have some idea, or the hints won't be there.

2)  Or commit to editing in the hints. ReWriting is going to happen anyway—so just plan on putting in a few scenes that give some clue as to later stuff. That way the reader can be an interactive partner, rather than a passive monkey being led by the nostrils. (hows that image for a Monday morning?)

19 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Good points, Hart! Foreshadowing is tricky...I love reading it when it's done well, though. I'm tweeting this one.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

siderealview said...

I might have prognosticated you do some of your best work on a Monday! keep on keeping on - even your critiquing has a punch... :)

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

lol. You're coughing made me laugh. Hope you feel better soon. ;)

I def foreshadow but sometimes a little too much. My betas have to pint out the points where they NEED to know more. I guess I like messing with "my readers." I'm learning to reveal a little as I go now, so it works much better.

Not Hannah said...

Oh, that screen cap is right before the Sharks and Jets face off. WITH JAZZ HANDS. (Also, I thought you were trying to point out that the pretty lady from Grey's Anatomy looked like she had a large grey penis. Ahahahahaa!)

Sorry. What?

Yeah, anyway, I have realized a few times in my writing that there's a difference between plot twist and wtf? And that foreshadowing doesn't have to mean a giant arrow. And...why am I even commenting on the second day of DST? I am incapable of coherency.

Great post. Carry on...

Watery Tart said...

Thanks for the Tweet, Elizabeth! It looks like there have been a bunch of first time visitors! And totally agree--tricky to walk the line between readers GETTING it and being too obvious.

Marian-I don't like Mondays... teehee-but Thank you!!!

Karen-WELCOME! And I totally agree with the importance of beta readers for spotting when it is too much or not enough. Subtlety isn't my strong suit *snort* but I can get tricksey.

NotHannah *snicker* Somebody had something slipped in her coffee this morning BUWAHAHAHAHAHA! Jazz Hands... are you using this as a synchronized swimming term?--but ABSOLUTELY-- easy to go overboard with foreshadowing, or not give ENOUGH for the readers to follow you. I twist and turn a lot in my stories, so totally get you here...

Jan Morrison said...

good post kiddo. I cut my finger so this is taking to long. later.

Amy said...

So how do we keep our protagonists from appearing moronic? If we put in the foreshadowing that the reader gets but the character doesn't, wouldn't that be underestimating the character? I just hate when I'm reading a book, the foreshadowing is so obnoxiously OBVIOUS and the character just sits there, confused.

Not Hannah said...

Heh. It's my contention that the entire, "Oh, look, now the blond vampire with the long hair sniffed cool chicks hair and is all nutty. Come, my fellow vampires, let's crouch and gnash at each other in syncopation" is totally a scene from "West Side Story" played out by pale people with bad hair in a thunderstorm.

Watery Tart said...

Jan--Sorry you're hurt! I hope it heals really fast!

Amy--I think the trick is to do the foreshadowing about just PART of it, or give some reasonable explanation for something that in the END you see "oh, well yeah--guess we should have seen that coming" [example: a character who in the end is unreliable is seen LYING early, but with a 'good reason' so the MC can ignore it, but you've established that is the kind of thing they do.] I agree with not liking the heavy handed (except in genres that are supposed to be a little campy--these cozies it seems can take a little harder hint--the schtik is stort of part of it.

NotHannah-EXACTLY! I have only seen parts of West Side Story, but I've been calling Twilight a 'wrong side of the tracks, star-crossed romance' for a long time... not a paranormal book, so overlap with West Side Story doesn't surprise me at all.

hampshireflyer said...

Going back and putting the foreshadowing in is one of the fun parts of editing - it gives me an incentive for doing the not so fun parts! :)

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I love books and movies where, when I get to the end, I say, “Oh, I didn’t see that coming.” But then when I think back on them, the foreshadowing was there all along.

Watery Tart said...

Alex-great to meet you! And that is a great way to look at it--having some fun in the editing... I think I do a mix, honestly-- because I have a loose idea where I'm going, but anything leading to something specific, needs to be added.

Jane-that is EXACTLY the masterful kind of foreshadowing I like. It's part of why I fell in love with the Harry Potter series.

Sugar said...

*sigh* well..I liked the twilights..maybe because I didn't think too much about the writing..just the story.(if that makes sense) *ducks to avoid random things being thrown* sorry.. Im a hopeless romantic even when it's vampires..:)
I've seen somewhere..write the ending first, then write to it..maybe that helps bring out the said foreshadowing..idk.
But I DO love when the good guy dies and it makes me sad..wait..I don't like that..nevermind..gah I'm rambling..sorry

Watery Tart said...

Sugar, you are NOT alone on loving those books (obviously). And I gotta say, I NEVER love romance--I like OTHER genres that include romance, but romance is NOT my thing, and that is what these were.

I find that the more I WRITE, the more critical I am, too... and I must confess to some level of sour grapes--Most of us need to edit a thousand times to get in, she obviously didn't do that or the books would be much better WRITING wise--but you are onto something about story--the underlying story is good. I just have grumbles on the execution, and because it's not my genre, couldn't get past that.

B. Miller said...

I'm writing the novel linear-ly, but not planning very far ahead. I plan to go back and edit in tidbits, things I've learned in the course of writing this book that I didn't necessarily know when I started the journey. I'm actually looking forward to the first edit-run in a masochistic sort of way.

Watery Tart said...

B. Other than scenes here and there, I write linearly to (though do give myself permission to skip ahead if I get stopped up) but what you said that rings so amazingly true, is what is learned in process! There are so many things I learn ALL the time (right now it is to do with a new genre, but every book) Always best if we can make use of that new information.

Not Hannah said...

WT, I felt the same way about the HP books! Peter Pettigrew/Scabbers in particular was just masterful. Having said that, I think that's why HP6 was such a huge letdown. I felt that the whole canon unraveled in a mad rush of "gotta make this happen THIS way." Having said THAT, I felt like everything came together beautifully again in HP7, which is my favorite of the series. (Neville pulling the sword from the hat? Made me cry and do a fist pump.)

Lisa K. said...

Great topic for a post. I find foreshadowing one of the harder things to do in writing, but it's so essential, particularly in certain genres. As someone who tends to not know where I'm going in my writing until I get there, I find that most of the time I must add the foreshadowing later.

Watery Tart said...

NH: Half Blood Prince is my least favorite too, a little scramble because of pulling in SO MUCH in so little space, but I think I was also annoyed by the hormones. It just had such a different flavor than the others. I think I still like Order of the Phoenix best, but DH was fabulous too, HUGELY because no effort (and I tried hard) predicted how it would go--she still managed to surprise us, but the hints really all HAD been laid.

Lisa--absolutely! I like it there no matter the genre, but I am trying to master mystery at the moment and there it is SOOO important to have all the hints in while still surprising...