Elements of Fiction: Foreshadowing Part 2

Monday, June 28

We've discussed what foreshadowing is and its most common form.
So how do we create foreshadowing?

Dialogue
What people say can hint at future events. For example in The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell;

"...Great sport, hunting.”
“The best sport in the world,” agreed Rainsford.
“For the hunter,” amended Whitney. “Not for the jaguar.”
“Don’t talk rot, Whitney,” said Rainsford. “...Who cares how a jaguar feels?”
“Perhaps the jaguar does,” observed Whitney.
“Bah! They’ve no understanding.”
“Even so, I rather think they understand one thing—fear. The fear of pain and the fear of death.”
“Nonsense,” laughed Rainsford. “...The world is made up of two classes—the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are the hunters."

This conversation rings with meaning when Rainsford later becomes the "hunted".

Events
The things that happen in the beginning can carry symbolism of what is to come.
From Michele Torrey's Voyage of Ice;

“A baby bird...”
Dexter peered into the tree overhead. “Must’ve fallen from its nest. C’mon, Nick, put it down. It’ll make a fine meal for something...”
“But we can’t let it die.”
“All things die, Nick.”
“I can feed it milk. And a worm, maybe..."
The hatchling was warm in my hands, and all the way back I whispered to it while Dexter rowed the boat and rolled his eyes.
...For two days I kept the bird alive, but it finally died as Dexter said it would. I held the cold, stiff body, thinking maybe it wasn’t really dead yet, but Dexter snatched it from me and buried it in a hole in the yard.
“It’s over,” he said, dry-eyed and looking disgusted.
I bawled my eyes out. Couldn’t help it. I visited the little grave for weeks, until it was overgrown and I could no longer see where it used to be.

Later in book, Nick shows the same compassion for life when he, and others, are stranded.

Narration
A simple sentence can allude to what's going to happen. Tucked neatly in a story could be,

"That was the last time Marcus ever saw her..." (This is a direct telling that something happens that prevents Marcus and the girl from ever seeing one another.)

"His words were kind enough, but his voice was cold. I was suddenly afraid..." (The narrator is always right, and holds great sway on the reader's opinions.)

"But it was too late anyway. No one could survive six months in Antarctica... (Whenever someone says something is impossible in a story, we usually assume it isn't. Because that's what writing a story is about; doing the impossible through a story.)

Read more...

Elements of Fiction: Foreshadowing Part 1

Friday, June 25

Foreshadowing: Giving hints to help the reader predict future events.
Okay, so why would we want readers to predict something? Aren't we supposed to surprise them? Yes and No.

Surprise is good. It can jolt the reader and intrigue them.
But sometimes, foreshadowing is far more intriguing. Let's look at the most basic form of foreshadowing; a prophecy.

Let's say that in the prologue an oracle declares that in ten years a young boy will find a long-lost sword. After the sword is used to kill his mother, he will use the sword to defeat a dark sorcerer in the mountains.

Now, why would a reader want to even read the story? They basically know the plot, right? Sure, but they are missing information and they know it.
How does the boy find the sword? How is the sword used to kill his mother? Does that mean he kills her? Why? How does he even get involved in the defeat of a dark sorcerer? How does he use the sword to accomplish that? Who is the dark Sorcerer and why should he defeat him?

I'm not saying this is an award-winning plot. But foreshadowing can generate interest and discussion. The reader will want to read, just to find out the answers to their questions.

When writing foreshadowing, think about "What do I want my audience to ask?"

This question should especially be used at the beginning of a story. You want generate enough questions that it draws the reader in from sheer curiosity. However, be careful not to overload. There is a fine line between curiosity and frustration.

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World-building: Creating a Caste/Hierarchy System

Monday, June 21

You may not be as important as you think. Throughout the ages, countries have had systems regarding who is more important than whom. Even in today's society, there are upper, middle, and lower classes. Creating such a system is essential when world-building.

Top
The top of the food chain is usually monopolized by the government. At the highest place is the leader of the nation, such as the pharaohs, tribal chiefs, presidents, and kings.
Depending on the level of religion in your world, priests tend to be next in line, followed by the rest of the government officials.
If you're "world" consists of one group, perhaps just a family or crew, there are few rules to building. However, the more experienced, useful people usually end up on top.

Middle
The people here are skilled in a way that profits them. These are the merchants, artisans, trades-people and whatnot.
It should be noted, that merchants tend to be above artisans. It seems if you don't have to get your hands dirty, that makes you higher up than those that do.
Of course, not all people here are skilled, such as the wealthy of Victorian England. The wealthy more likely than not had an ancestor who made a fortune that lasted for his future generations to sponge off. In other words, "old money".

Bottom
The unskilled, the homeless, those made poor by corrupt governments. The bottom isn't a pretty place to be and there are few countries that offer the chance to rise up from this level with hard work. For the majority of caste systems, where you're born is where you stay.

Outcasts
In some cases, societies have those that are considered outside the caste system. In India, people born into families who do "impure" jobs (i.e. leatherwork, latrine-cleaning, butchering) are known as the "untouchables". They have next to no rights and are shunned.
This group can include exiles, outcasts, and foreigners.

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Breaking Writing Rules

Friday, June 18

I've come across several writing blogs that challenge writers to "break all the rules about writing that you can. It's the only way to be original. Rules are confining. Ignore them all."

Now pay attention, because this is important; you shouldn't write a story with the sole purpose of breaking as many "rules" as you can.
It won't make you stunningly original or creative. It will probably just make your book suck.

Granted, there are some rules that won't work for everyone. Novelists are told that the main character should grow and develop by the end of their book. For short story writers, this rule is usually unnecessary for such a short time span.

Rules are really just guidelines or suggestions; a roadmap to give you hints about where the heck you're going.

The most successful books follow the "rule" to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Breaking that rule will, more likely than not, result in a mess of a plot.

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Raising The Stakes

Monday, June 14

No matter how huge the conflict, if it doesn't directly affect the protagonist, why should the character care? Why should the reader care?
By raising the stakes, the protagonist's life becomes more entangled with its conflicts. Things spiral out of control because of the protagonist's attempts to stop the threat.
Examples:

Conflict: War threatens protagonist's homeland.
That's all good and fine, but how does it affect protagonist?
Complication: Protagonist's brother forced to serve in enemy's army.
Now it's more personal.

Conflict: Protag's mother is dying.
Complication: The only known cure is at the end of the world.

Conflict: Character is framed for theft.
Complication: If character can't prove his innocence, his family will be killed.

Conflict: Character's father dies.
Complication: The father left a debt that the character must pay.

Read more...

Writer Sense One-Year Anniversary

Friday, June 11

In honor of this blog's first year (the official anniversary day was actually last Sunday) I wanted to revisit some old posts. So here's my favorite this year;

Driving The Plot

The Anatomy of a Story

How to Write a Gripping Beginning

Showing Not Telling: Characterization

Readers Around the World (I'll be honest; This was probably my favorite post to do.)

How To Write a Love Story

How To Write Escape Scenes

How To Write Battle/Action Scenes

Creating Villains Part 1

Writing Scene Transitions

Creating Post-War Scenes: Part 2

Read more...

Creating Post-War Scenes: Part 2

Monday, June 7

Families
The obvious consequence of war; loss of life.
Even after a war, the ache of the dead is still there. Brothers and sons become soldiers, civilians are killed, and families are split in the general confusion of bombings, refugee camps, or by hostile governments.

Destruction
War is messy. Entire cities can be destroyed in the process of warfare. Records, art, and homes are deliberately damaged. During World War II, London was bombed, and some of France's great architecture and art demolished.

Soldiers
Soldiers can return home haunted and bitter.
After the Vietnam War, many veterans sought psychological help, but most were refused since citizens at that time were against war and hated the returning soldiers.

Agriculture
Without the soldiers in the workforce, that's that much less people farming and preparing food (This one really only applies back to when most everyone was a farmer.) Starvation and famine can follow long wars, what with half the population growing crops for the same amount of people.
During the American Revolution, hungry armies would often raid civilian homes for food and not bother paying for it.

Fashion
This one's not a very common effect of war, but I thought it somewhat interesting.
During World War I, women were asked to stop buying steel-framed corsets to provide more metal to the war effort. Consequently, corsets went out of style (thank heavens).

Roles
As most of us know from 7th grade Social Studies, the lack of men in the workforce during World War II provided women the opportunity to do more jobs, resulting in this marvelous bit of propaganda;
(Never seen that before...)
Children will also shoulder more responisblity when given the chance.

War changes not only boundries and countries, but lives.

Read more...

Creating Post-War Scenes: Part 1

Friday, June 4

Even after a war is over and done, the world isn't automatically perfect. There's still quite mess left to clean up. Every aspect of the countries involved (especially for the losers) is affected.

Economy
Wars aren't cheap. Each country has to pay for their armies. Uniforms, ammunition, and necessities have to be provided, usually at the expense of civilians.
The currency's value can also be decreased. Toward the end of the Roman empire, enemy looting and government spending of the state's gold made the value of Roman coins drop.

Boundaries
Land; you can't make more, what's there is there. Throughout the ages, countries’ borders have waxed and waned. Persia once stretched from India to Libya, all through the conquering of other nations.
So what land do the conquerors receive? How have the maps changed? What have the losers sacrificed?

Losers
Every war has a losing side, even if they do come to a agreement or sign a treaty.
They may be forced to give up land or money. Notably in ancient times, the victors could have them enslaved, such as the Babylonians, or revoke their rights, much as the Romans did to the Jews.

Read more...
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