Casting A Shadow

For the daily dose of controversy, go here.  I’m talking about other stuff today.

This is a post about how to foreshadow in a book.  It is of course a post for writers, but also for readers.  Sometimes being aware of the foreshadowing is a delight.  I confess I don’t usually do it first read through, when I’m like “yay, story.”  BUT on second read, seeing how beautiful the structure is supporting the tent can help appreciate the work.

I will warn you I am no expert.  I only discovered foreshadowing after selling FOUR books.  Does this mean I was doing none of it?  Well, no, it doesn’t.  I’ve read so much – books and stories have always been part of my life, even if the earliest reading I remember is comic books.  What I mean is, I absorbed some of what to do through the skin, without thinking about it.

[CACS asked how I could have a degree in literature without learning about foreshadowing.  Very easily.  First you have to account for different cultures.  I don’t know HOW Portuguese novels are structured, but I know it’s different from Anglophonic novels.  For one, they read far more leisurely and unstructured to me.  Now, we studied English and German and French novels, too, but if a concept does not exist in your own literature, you’ll be blind to it in other literatures.  OTOH it’s entirely possible that foreshadowing is well known in Portugal and I never heard of it.  Honestly, having gone into highschool in 75 (highschool in Portugal starts with 7th grade) and graduating in 81, I got the first wave of what we’ll call ex-hippie (and sometimes not ex) teachers.  College was more mixed, because some of my literature professors were older, but they too were under the tyranny of the hip.  Just like art was about throwing us at a wall with paint and telling us to express ourselves, we were encouraged to analyze literature anyway we wanted to, with bonus points for Marxist.  Just like I now take arts courses to learn about stuff like perspective and shading, I had to unlearn almost anything I thought I knew about literature, in order to write readable books.]

Anyway, I thought – feel free to laugh here – that things were just supposed to happen in books.  In the same way I like surprise endings, I thought that ALL plot developments should be surprises, the more surprise the better.  This resulted in some reviews for my first published books, saying the books had no plot.  This is silly, because they do.  What happens HAS to happen, logically.  It’s just that I didn’t signal it enough in advance and from the readers’ perspective it just “happens.”  At that, my first published books have SOME structure that’s visible to readers, in the form of leaning on older fairytales.  The great Minoan saga suffers, most of all, from a complete lack of foreshadowing (yes, I DID think I was being clever) which means walls fal on the character.  From the reader’s perspective, this character is just cursed, and he can’t walk past a wall without it’s falling onto it.  (A quick note on plotting here – your character should suffer mostly from things he did himself.  While the eternal victim character – Jane Eyre, or the beginning of Harry Potter – grabs you, if the character doesn’t start having some control over his destiny and soon, you’ll either lose readers or win a Nobel Prize, depending on who your victim is.)  This is why the great Minoan saga MUST be rewritten, even IF I bring it out myself.

And then within the space of a month, both Dave Freer and Toni Weisskopft informed me when I said something like “I know, my plotting sucks” (which I’d told other professionals before and they never disabused me) “No, your plotting is fine, but you have no clue how to foreshadow.”  (Boy, were they right.  I’m looking at novellas I wrote before that, and OUCH.  Those too are being rewritten.  The short stories “swim” better because very short.)

They both then left me to sink or swim, (and in Dave’s case we ALL know there are sharks in the waters he swims in!) They both recommended I read Georgette Heyer as an example, though.  (This started my downfall into reading icky, icky romance.  Actually reading ANY romance doesn’t hurt, if you haven’t read it before.  Or any genre you don’t normally read.  You see the structure better if the idea is unfamiliar.)

The first time I foreshadowed I was convinced – CONVINCED – that people would tell me I’d ruined the book; that they knew all the plot in the first three pages, that they didn’t like it.

Instead, that book, Draw One In The Dark, though it had a horrible cover in hard cover, and therefore negligible numbers, was the beginning of my building my fandom.  (It’s available at Baen’s Webscriptions at a reasonable price, too AND with the not-horrible mmpb cover.)

Foreshadowing is one of those things you have to learn by trial and error, but from the height of my eight years of doing it, let me tell you what I’ve learned so far.

1- Tell the readers what the book IS in the first few pages.  By which I don’t mean your character should stop and say “Welcome to my world, this is a sf/adventure/with dragons.”  I mean that the major elements that shape genre or sub-genre should be there.  PARTICULARLY now that covers are often thumbnails and you decide to purchase on the first few pages.  If I think I’m reading quest fantasy and then they arrive at the spaceport I’m going to be jarred at least, and throw the book against the wall at worst.

But SARAH, you say – stop whining, kid – my book doesn’t start at a place that tells you what it is.  You see, my character is in this perfectly normal coffee shop, and then this magician comes in…  (Noted, coffee + magic equals AWESOME, but–) and the world is perfectly normal till then.  Yeah.  Okay fine.  BUT there are ways to give clues.  If your character knows magic exists, give him a thought about oh, fixing his own coffee maker with magic.  If he doesn’t, have him see something and go “Impossible.  There’s no such thing as magic.”  This can be very short and throw away, but it’s enough to let the reader know – even if at a subconscious level – that magic is part of this novel.

This is more important the more out of the ordinary your book is.  So if you’re writing a science fantasy or a techno romance, you need to signal more and earlier.  People tend to default to book-patterns they know.  If you don’t signal, they’ll assume your book is a standard whatever they read last.

2- For major plot points ahead, signal three times.

Say your character is going to suddenly and explosively turn into a dragon when cornered.  You should have this signaled ahead, in different ways – he remembers doing it at some point, and leveling the area (weak); he is afraid of doing it (stronger, but still weak); he goes halfway to changing and pulls back (stronger.)

It needs three times because your readers might not notice the first, and think the second is accidental.

3 – For minor plot points, you can foreshadow less, or just weakly.  Say by mentioning a few times, in passing, through different characters that red hats attract dragons.

4 – Take what you think is excessive signaling ahead, then amp it to double.  Remember, you know the book, so to you it feels like being beat over the head.  It doesn’t to a reader because they don’t KNOW what you’re trying to do.  (Which is rather the point.)  Objects in the writer’s mind are larger than they appear to the reader.  Remember that.

For those going traditional publishing, copy editors are the enemies of this process.  They don’t seem to GET that they’re doing this professionally and line by line, and the reader doesn’t read like that, so they’ll tell you things like “you already told us that!”  This is why G-d gave you a STET stamp (or if you’re me, you had it made at a local shop.)  Use it.  Try to make sure you didn’t repeat the words, though, particularly in different characters’ mouths, because readers DO get THAT.

5 – If you’re a pantser or an occasional pantser, or a pantser in details (which I am, sometimes) don’t go in with a heavy hand in revision and ASSUME you didn’t foreshadow.  I seem to be foreshadowing behind my own back.  Take the whole child prostitution thing in Witchfinder – which, ick, ick, ick, I wouldn’t consciously put in, but my subconscious THINKS must be in there – it surprised me as coming out of nowhere, but when I read back over it, it is foreshadowed.  This has happened to me A TON of times, with various books.  So, read first.  The foreshadowing might ALREADY be there.

6- OTOH when revising, make sure you remove accidental foreshadowing. I.e. Foreshadowing for things that aren’t in the book/won’t happen/are just plain weird. Take the beginning of Death Of The Musketeer.  I have – I think I’ve admitted this – a crush on Athos.  When writing that book, the first time I got to play with Athos in my own prose, I forgot I was in D’Artagnan’s mind, and described Athos… rather… lovingly.  This was the author having fun, but when I revised, it read like signage for guy on guy romance, if not guy on guy porn.  I deleted six pages, in utter horror at my slip-up.  (No.  You can’t have them.  Geesh.  You guys just want to laugh at me.)  A lost of accidental foreshadowing isn’t that in your face, and you might miss it.  Say you mention your character is an excellent rider, just because you want to give him ALL virtues.  If this is done early, the reader will expect… horsemanship to matter.  (If it’s later in the novel, they might get you’re just saying he’s “Wonnerful.”) Unless horsemanship matters, take it out.

Of course, the BEST way to test your learning of these techniques is beta readers you can trust.  If this IS what you’re testing, you might ask them to write on the margins (or make a note) at certain points in the book of what they think the book is about and where it’s going.

Another good way is to write fanfic.  At least at the Derbyshire Writers’ Guild, you get a lot of comments, and from the comments – where people ALWAYS speculate on what will happen next – you can judge how your signaling is.

Good luck, and may you learn to cast long shadows.

56 responses to “Casting A Shadow

  1. ppaulshoward

    Off topic (or maybe on topic), it’s fun when a character makes a comment that, while relevant to the situation, gains an extra meaning later down the road when we learn more about the characters.

    In the first of David Weber’s Safehold novels, the king makes a comment about his bishop that becomes more interesting in a later book when we learn that the bishop & the king are members of a secret organization (a good one) that knows the truth about the Safehold religion and their world.

    • ppaulshoward

      Grumble Grumble, the “notify of follow-up comments” isn’t automatic.

      • Robin Munn

        And thank goodness that it isn’t. I accidentally left it turned on (during the brief period when the default was changed to “on”) while posting in the Odds thread, and got about 300 emails. Fortunately they went to my Gmail account so it got sorted into a single “conversation”, but if I had given one of my other email addresses, I would have had to write an email filter in Thunderbird just to be able to see my inbox again.

        SO glad the wordpress.com admins have switched that default back to “off”, and I hope they have the sense to keep it that way.

  2. ppaulshoward– I think of that as “reprise,” like the ironic or tragic repetition of a musical phrase in an opera. “Blade Runner” has two beautiful examples. The first time someone says, “Time to die,” it’s a good action movie catch phrase. The second time someone says it, it breaks your heart. And Decker’s mentor says, “It’s too bad she won’t live. But then again, who does?” Ten minutes or so later, we find out what the old man was gently trying to tell him. (Director’s cut only, on those.)

  3. One of the best parts about foreshadowing is that you don’t necessarily have to do it in real time. It’s in the long list of questions and suggestions I use when revising a scene, so it gets done deliberately if it isn’t already in there
    This ability to go back and redo is one of the joys of writing fiction: if you (or your character) are tongue-tied in the first draft, you will still sound witty in the final one (assuming you can do witty) – and NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW.

    • YES. And I do this too.

      • Always be careful to catch where, in first draft, you gave a character lines like:

        Witty retort to be inserted.
        Charming bon mot.
        Scathing observation.

        Although I once saw a Second City (might have been some other improv group — my most distinct memory of any of the group’s skits was of a character dressed like a KGB agent reciting the lyric to “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” in an ominous manner) skit consisting of nothing but such directions and fell out my chair laughing.

        • Kate Paulk

          My method for htis is pretty simple – all of these directions are flagged with [witty retort] – that way, I can search for [ and find all the places I flagged for something that I needed to do.

          Right now it's all things like [location of dock], [street name], and [find out how long it takes to sail from X to Y]. They’re place-holders for when I can’t research something to get filled in when I can do the research.

  4. Hm. I have to say I didn’t think of most of this stuff as foreshadowing, but rather as definition: worldbuilding and rules definition, genre definition, character definition, and definition of a motif or piece of imagery that you can repeat with variations.

    (Number four usually is totally under control of my unconscious mind, but becomes obvious to me about halfway or two-thirds into it. At which point I realize with relief what the theme and poetry of the book are, and can begin to add the motif anywhere I need translucent glue for the characters or narrative.)

    OTOH, I totally agree that readers seem to absorb and enjoy the plot better with the three pointers, or even with a bit of aftershadowing. I think it’s a theme with variations thing, as well as signaling. And if you can fit it into an overall structure like in Tolkien’s narrative/medieval romance class (as described by Diana Wynne Jones’ article about it — the one in her NESFA collection, Everard’s Ride, or in Giddings’ Tolkien: This Far Land — it’s called “Shape and Narrative in Lord of the Rings” and it’s awesomely useful lit crit and writer info), then you can merrily play theme-with-variations all over.

    • The DWJ reference (and you know, I do believe the Tolkein monograph is available in other of her works, but can’t lay the finger of my mind to it at the mo) prompts a suggestion for a useful tutorial on foreshadowing: recommend books which demonstrate it aptly. For a start, I would say DWJ’s Archer’s Goon and Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys, books where the plot so delightfully “falls into place” that the reader finishes the last page and goes back to the first, just for the joy of seeing how all the pieces are laid out along the way. I think pretty much any of T Pratchett’s discworld books, certainly after the first few, can provide foreshadowing tutorials — pick one, say, Guards! Guards!.

      Some genres require more foreshadowing than others — I suspect mysteries and thrillers, for example, require more than westerns or space opera, but it may simply be I wasn’t watching for it. And of course, if you’re writing genre within genre books (a thriller space opera, for ex.) you have to decide which genre rules rule.

      So, the recommended reading list for foreshadowing starts with:

      Archer’s Goon, Dianna Wynne Jones
      Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman
      Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
      Citizen of the Galaxy, Robert A Heinlein

      Any additions? Any challenges?

      Just for fun and to open the genre doors a touch, I’ll toss in:

      Ride the River, Louis L’Amour

      • Weird. I’d never pick Archer’s Goon. I thought the end was rather wet. I’d suggest The Merlin Conspiracy instead. Personal taste, I guess.

        Romance as Heyer does it requires a LOT of foreshadowing too. I’d recommend Venetia and Sprig Muslim and (Romance Mystery) The Quiet Gentleman.

      • Just to open the door a little wider, Ride the River, by the way, is probably one of the better examples of foreshadowing that Louis L’amour did.

        Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott

  5. Robin Munn

    One of the story ideas in my head is an urban fantasy, where the fantasy elements don’t reveal themselves until chapter 3 or 4. So I’d planned to open with the protagonist at school, reading The Last Unicorn between classes and wishing the world still had magic in it. Then later during football practice, a horse jumps the fence and runs onto the field, and the protagonist is one of the few people who can catch it: it runs away from everyone else, but it allows him to approach it and lead it off the field. Only a couple chapters later does he learn what the “horse” really is…

    • Guy with unicorn? DOOOO EEEEEET! :)

      • Contemporary urban fantasy featuring a Boy & his Unicorn?

        MUCH humour potential deriving from the (presumed) fact that unicorns only affiliate with virgins (or so, at least, would Boy believe.) A unicorn would probably attract a LOT of cute girls who might be … less than overly concerned with helping Boy retain his honour.

  6. Kate Paulk

    Side note from someone who’s been there and made those mistakes: if you’re cuing what kind of story at the opening, it doesn’t have to be screaming in-your-face. Sure, if the story demands that your character gets thrown across the street by a blast of magic as the opening, go for it, but there are other less blatant ways.

    My Vlad stories, I use more formal language, longer sentences and archaic words and phrases. That with a few cues (like the use of swords) is a pretty good indicator that we ain’t in Kansas, and that there’s no spaceship anywhere close. The con vampire books the tone is much more modern conversational, and I slide in at least some hint of supernatural doings early.

    Dave Freer is the one who got me started with this – in the opening especially, every word is doing multiple levels of work. It’s scene-setting, letting readers know what the “rules” are for the story, as well as doing the usual story things.

    Of course, thanks to Dave and Sarah, I can’t write anything without layering stuff in there. And being the extreme pantser I am, most of the time I don’t even realize I’m doing it.

  7. You guys just want to laugh at me.

    With. Laugh with you.

  8. My critique group was grumbling about how it looked like the WIP was just winding up now, and I had to remind them of the ancient aphorism: “If there is an atomic bomb on the mantel at the beginning it *must go off* before the end.” And yes, there is an atomic bomb that got mentioned chapters before …

  9. Mark Alger

    Chekov’s Gun: a great mnemonic. If a gun is hanging on the mantlepiece in the first act, it had better be fired by the end. Commutatively, a gun fired in the final act has to come from somewhere.

    I have more trouble with the tell-me-three times.

    M

    • yes. So do I Mark. It’s a nack. You learn it. And fortunately you can put it in afterwards.

    • It seems to me that for purpose of foreshadowing you need to invert Chekov’s gun:
      If a gun is fired at the end of Act 1, it must be put in place in the beginning of the act.

      Well, not the exact beginning, of course. Hitchcock also addressed this principle of foreshadowing in his description of building suspense: don’t just have a bomb go off under the table, first show the bomb in place, then the people sitting down, then cut back to the bomb then show the people at the table conversing unaware of the bomb, perhaps a person drops a pen and, in picking it up just misses noticing the bomb …

      • wolfwalker

        “Chekhov’s gun” as I’ve always heard it has both parts:

        If a gun is seen on the wall in Act 1, it must be fired in Act 3.
        If a gun is fired in Act 3, it must be seen on the wall in Act 1.

        And [pedant alert!] it is “Chekhov,” not “Chekov.” We’re talking about the Russian playwright, not the Enterprise’s navigator.

        • Distant cousins, Sarah says, waving hands wildly on behalf of her commenters. (Running very fast. :) )

        • Ahem – blame Mark Alger for the erroneous spelling? Typo?

          No, I knew it was Anton, not Pavel and should have known it was Chekhov … but …But we are dealing with a transliteration of a surname from the Cyrillic alphabet and thus the English transliteration is merely a convention and not, definitely not definitive.

        • Hey! You anglicize the Russion your way, I’ll anglicize it mine.

          That’s my story and I’m sticking to it long enough for most of you to have forgotten the incident.

          M

        • Nor would I be surprised, if you caught Pavel in an expansive mood — say over wodka in a bar where they do slam Russian poetry — if he were to claim a relationship.

          M

        • pohjalainen

          And it’s written ‘Tsehov’ by Finns (there should be a mark above the s, that one which means it’s pronounced as ‘sh’ but I have no idea where to find that in the keyboard).

          Hey, we were part of the Russian Empire when he lived, should count for something. :)

          • pohjalainen

            And not sure if that mark is used by you people, so it might not show on your screens anyway. Kind of like a small v over the s?

            Same with the damn umlauts, the a and o with an umlaut – different letters than a and o without umlaut and pronounced rather differently – should be used with some Finnish names, but as far as I understand names written like that wont necessarily appear that way over there, and there seems to be no standard way to write those phones with the English alphabet so that they’d sound right. But of course you pronounce all Finnish names wrong anyway. :)

            • I had the worst time when I first started in Koine Greek with the diereses (SP?) mark. I had taken German before and my mind kept saying umlaut, ah yes the two little dots above the vowel, I know what to do. Which, of course, was wrong.

            • and the a and o with the tilda in Portuguese. And the accents (the horror, the horror.) I could never remember which way the accent was supposed to tilt (I can’t tell directions!) so I perfected the art of making it straight up and making it look accidental.

              • My Mexican friends, literate all, prefer to correspond in capital letters because in Mexican Spanish you don’t use accents on majusculos.

                • Lucky them. Portuguese does. Though I THINK the new brazilian-luso convention on language (the tail wags the dog now, it’s mostly Brazil dictating points) MIGHT have abolished them, or at least my nephews don’t use them at all. Also, they have introduced K and W and Y which didn’t exist in Portuguese in the convention I was taught under (though the Y existed when my mother learned to read.) For the record I find this “spelling by diktat from above both funny and appalling.” In practical fact it means at the age of fifty I no longer know correct spelling in the language I grew up in.

                  • There are more Portuguese speakers in South America than Spanish because of the population of Brazil. Angola is developing its own form of Portuguese as well. It has a larger population than Portugal, but not all of them speak the official language. (A friend was learning it while she taught the children of English speakers living there.)

                    I suspect that world wide American English now has more overall impact than that spoken in England.

            • And not sure if that mark is used by you people, so it might not show on your screens anyway.

              Would that be the ̌ mark? So Chekhov’s name, written in Finn, would be Tšehov — is that correct?

              No, that mark isn’t used in English… but these days, computers can show all kinds of accents and/or characters from other alphabets. Used to be you were limited to just 256 characters in one font, but now that the Unicode standard has expanded that to just over 1.1 million, just about any letter you can imagine, from any language in the world, can be displayed on your computer — as long as you have a font for it, at least. And most fonts for English include all the accents from the various European languages.

              Now, when you get into Asian languages, it can get a bit trickier. For instance, here’s “Hello” in Thai: สวัสดีครับ, pronounced “Sa wat dee kap” (if spoken by a man), or สวัสดีค่ะ, pronounced “Sa wat dee kaa” (if spoken by a woman). If you don’t have any fonts installed on your computer that contain the Thai alphabet, you’ll see little square boxes instead of the Thai letters. However, your computer did process the letters properly, it just didn’t know how to display them — so if you then download a Thai font (Google search for “Garuda font” to find a good one; the second search result should be slice-of-thai.com, which includes a download link), you’ll see my post “magically” change from square characters to Thai letters, just by hitting “reload” (or “refresh”) on your browser.

              International communication is so much easier these days, at least from the technical standpoint. Learning other languages, OTOH, is still difficult. :-)

              • Yes, that is the correct mark.

                • pohjalainen

                  Hah! Looks like WordPress is back to allowing commenting without having to log in to my WordPress account!

                  Well, I suppose I will stay with ‘pohjalainen’ here anyway, in case anybody wants to email me or something. :)

              • The Daughter uses her computer to pursue Japanese, which uses two of its own syllabaries (Kana: Hirigana and Katakana) and, of course, Kanji for writing. She thinks nothing of what I see as quite challenging. Part is the kind of mind she has, part is that pretty much all of her life she has been using computers.

                We really are only just begining to see how computers will change the world, because the first generation of children who have grown up with them as ‘always’ and are completely comfortable with them are only now maturing.

                • yes. Exactly. It’s like the ebook revolution — we’re at the VERY first curling of foam at the shore. We can’t even IMAGINE the tsunami to follow. Kind of like in the early nineties we thought we were so big and bad using chat rooms. If someone had told us of political blogs, on line comics, etc. we’d have gone “you’re nuts.”

  10. By the way, about letting the reader know fairly soon what the novel is… Karl Edward Wagner assembled several lists of his Best Horror Novels– Best fantasy horror, best non-fantasy horror, best SF horror. There are maybe four horror novels in the English language which were witty society comedies until the author went insane toward the end and turned them into gruesome, hideous sexual-themed horror — AND THEY ARE ALL ON WAGNER’S LISTS! A slightly less annoying factor, he picked about ten novels that are available only in first editions that go for a thousand dollars or so at auction, as if he was either trying to persuade someone to arrange an edition for the rest of us, or was just showing off his collection.

  11. This was perfectly timed, Sarah! Many thanks. I’ve been fighting myself on how to start something – begin in the in the middle or build up to the critical point – and decided to build up. Using foreshadowing made it work much better and now things are flowing along. The warning bits/ sign posts “feel” heavy-handed to me so they may be about right.

  12. “Objects in the writer’s mind are larger than they appear to the reader. Remember that.”

    Some of the best advice I’ve seen. When I threw in a small line in my first book about an important character who would later play a major role, I was sure that I’d just given away the farm. “Too much!” I’d shout. “Everyone is going to figure out the ending now.”

    I kept the couple of lines in, and to my surprise and satisfaction, several beta readers told me it was one of the best things they’d read. It made them want to go back through and see what else they hadn’t picked up on. It’s still one of my greatest compliments.

  13. OK…My parents taught me to read using phonetics. Then the school system, in their great wisdom, tried to fix this dreadful mistake with see and say. While I love written words, they do not always love me. I have the reading speed of an average fifth grader, and have been diagnosed as a dyslexic.

    I read deliberately, and I notice details. If there are not promising and rewarding details I will put the book aside for a better time which might well never come. Catch my interest, feed me with rich detail and intriguing hints and I will follow.

    I also have a long streak of verbal story tellers in the family. There is a power when you get to the part where you say, ‘And here John (pause: You remember John, don’t you?) came into the room and…’

  14. 'nother Mike

    One thing that I think I’d add, based mostly on watching TV shows and some books stumble over this, is that if you think you need to explain something “at the point of the action” — you need to go back and add more foreshadowing. I see cases where they are trying to use narrator intervention, flashbacks, other character comments, and so forth, simply to explain why one of the characters “suddenly” has an ability, a secret, or something — and groan. I think it’s one of the causes of the dreaded infodump, too! Admittedly, in the heat of the writing, yes, you may need to make a note to yourself that you need to go back and plant some information — but then in revision, go back and foreshadow! Don’t depend on “just in time” information. It makes this reader bang his head against the wall.

    • Melvyn Barker

      Yes. That is guaranteed to make me want to throw the book at the wall and not buy anything by that author again.

    • There might be reasons not to do this on movie (I don’t know) but yes, the correct thing in writing is to go back and add it. And it happens to me TONS of times.

  15. In pop-music they refer to the hook, the part at the beginning that catches your attention. You touched upon how the opening foreshadowing needs to both set the type of story and draw the reader in. Foreshadowing also continues in the course of the story.

    What, if anything, do you see as the different challenges and requirements for writing the hook vs. foreshadowing in general?

    • Well… you have more time to set it up. Unless you’re really really bad, most readers will read to the end of the free pages on Amazon which might be twenty or twenty five for a novel. With editors, because of competition and how many openings there were, you often had one page. IF you were a newby, of course.

  16. I am not a writer, but your writing makes me want to be. I truly relish your way with the words.

  17. I am… hm. Reverse-spoiled? By my spouse. Who reads books and consistently picks up on stuff and predicts plot twists that I either hadn’t consciously looked at or didn’t catch.

    It probably makes my foreshadowing a bit… iffier, though I do try. (Or maybe he just can’t predict me very well? I suppose I can hope…) *sigh*

  18. That’s a fascinating idea, that foreshadowing turns random events into a plot. I’d add that I think those events need to build on each other, but yeah, foreshadowing can connect them, and events building on each other means previous events foreshadow the future ones, I would think.

    If there are any fans of Writing Excuses, webcartoonist Howard Taylor, who does a lot of pantsing writing, mentioned making a joke: “people generally agreed it had been a mistake to give sentience to the elephants.” He thought it was a throw-away line, but the readers kept asking about it, and now he has to put sentient elephants in the strip.

    The full episode is here – it goes into foreshadowing and making promises to the reader:
    http://www.writingexcuses.com/2011/01/09/writing-excuses-5-19-fulfilling-promises-to-your-readers/

    • I was assuming you had a plot. But without the sign posts, the plot isn’t always perceived. So, yeah, plot and building on each other. I was doing that, I just wasn’t signaling.