Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Planting Seeds

One of the hardest things to do in writing is to properly foreshadow events.  Sure, lots of writers try it, but it usually comes across as "PAY ATTENTION TO THIS - IT MEANS SOMETHING BIG WILL HAPPEN DOWN THE ROAD!!!!!"  It's got the subtlety of a jackhammer and often comes off as annoying and insecure.

Some will look at the last sentence and say, "Insecure?  How do you figure that?"  I figure that because most authors don't have enough trust in the audience to pick up on the things they write.  Many feel that if they don't lead the reader by the hand, the reader won't see it coming and won't know just how smart the author is.

The thing is that you've got to trust your audience to be as smart as you are.  Stop all the flashing neon signs and see if they can get it on their own.  Or see if they'll put it all together when you finally reveal the payoff.  Either way can be rewarding.

I often try to plant subtle seeds in my novels to foreshadow certain events.  Maybe I'll mention a tertiary character and not let folks know that the person is the focal point for the main character's angst.  Or I could leave out a certain character and only provide subtle clues that they even exist, but when the person is finally revealed, it sets the story in a whole new direction.  Whatever the seed, it's designed to get the reader delving deeper, looking for other clues that he or she missed that might be vital to the story.

It's a delicate balance because it's easy to either overdo or underdo.  You need to provide just enough that the reader will later say, "Aha!" without beating their head up over it.  Maybe throw in a character quirk once or twice, or mention an object's color, making it seem like a minor detail when it really means much more.

The fun thing as a writer is when I don't even realize I've planted that seed.  I've often said that I don't always know where my story is going.  As further plot points are revealed, they sometimes tie back into something I truly thought was a throwaway when I wrote it, only to later say, "It could be interesting if I put in X since that ties back into Y."  Of course you sometimes have to dress it up upon revision, but you still may plant seeds you don't even know about until later in the book when you more clearly develop your plot.

Plant those seeds, and plant them just under the surface.  You'll be amazed by the fruit they produce.

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