Monday, July 18, 2011

First Comes Email Exchange, Then Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage...: Part 1

Originally, I had planned to write about using Anglo-Saxon words vs. using Latinate words, however, I had a burst of inspiration. This past weekend my family and I traveled up into cottage country for a weekend ripe with romance, and fancy clothing, aka my cousin's wedding. Being that the drive was four hours, I brought along my newest how-to-write book that I am simply in love with. I was reading about foreshadowing, and the gun-on-the-wall principle, so that was fresh in my mind. So when I was sitting in my cousin's wedding listening to their vows, and their talk about when they first met each other the idea for writing a post on foreshadowing came to me.

Allow me to explain. When my cousin, Elizabeth, was reading her vows she mentioned that her and Tim, her new hubby, had been introduced by her grandfather. After eating dinner with her family, and Tim's, who were visiting, they exchanged emails. If this was a novel, that would be foreshadowing for what was to come, the wedding.

Foreshadowing is where you "suggest in advance" (thank you!) what is going to happen. I could go into a long drawn out debate about why foreshadowing is good for our writing, but I'll put it plainly. Foreshadowing tells that reader that something is going to happen, which engages your reader, and keeps them turning the pages of your story. You might not think about it when you're reading, I know I don't, but often times the books you return to the library without finishing are lacking in foreshadowing. There is no indication of something to read for, so you simply stop reading.

Anything can be foreshadowed, whether it be a small event like missing the bus, or a large event like the death of a character. There are a ton of ways to foreshadow, but here are the few ways that I came up with with the aid of a few different books and websites.

Tell the reader it will happen.
This is one of the more overt ways to foreshadow, but it keeps the reader reading. If you start off a scene with this:

Martha got up in the morning, and had her morning coffee. Without a doubt she knew it was going to be a day filled with romance.


Martha got up in the morning, and had her morning coffee. She could hardly wait till tonight when she went on her first date with the smart and equally handsome Mr. Summers.

In both examples, the writer tells the reader that something is going to happen. In the first instance the writer tells the reader that Martha will have a romantic encounter, and in the second, the writer tells the reader that Martha is excited to go on a date. By telling the reader that something is going to happen, it immediately plants an interest in the reader. What's going to happen that's so romantic? Who's Mr. Summers? How is Mr. Summers so smart? You get the point. Although this is not the most subtle form of foreshadowing it does the trick.

I do recommend that a writer is wary of using this to too much of an extreme, because you don't want to give away the ending, and prevent the reader from reading on. One major example of using this badly (in my opinion) that comes to mind right away is in Little House on the Prairie, the TV show, when Laura first meets Almanzo. She says something along the lines of, "I didn't know it then, but he was the man I was going to marry." This gives away to much, and takes away the whole advantage of interesting the reader. Now, if she would have said something like, "This man would be a significant part of my future." that would have been much better, as it makes the viewer ask question in order to keep watching the show.

Write a Pre-scene.
This is the type of foreshadowing that I mentioned earlier in regards to Elizabeth's wedding. The pre-scene would have been the dinner, and exchanging of emails. It would have promised something exciting to come within the novel. I would have kept reading the novel to see what becomes of the email exchange. Are they going to email each other? Do they fall in love? etc. etc. A pre-scene alludes to what is to come. I would even go as far as to say you need to have these scenes to make improve your writing. For example, as a reader, I would be extremely confused and unhappy if Elizabeth and Tim decided to get married out of the blue (again if their lives were a novel) with no foreshadowing pre-scene. There must be pre-scenes in order to keep the reader interested, and satisfied.

Write irrational emotions.
By giving character's emotions that aren't normal you tell the reader that something will come of those emotions. Now, in real life people have irrational feelings all the time and nothing comes of it, but in fiction every emotion means something to the reader. After all why mention it if it means nothing? For example, you might make a student afraid of going to school. This makes the reader wonder why they're so afraid, so they will read on to find out. You could also have a mother worry about leaving her child in daycare, and that could foreshadow a kidnapping. Giving your characters emotions that aren't "normal" will add to the foreshadowing effect.

I had planned to write this as one post, but quite frankly, this is getting much too long. Stay tuned for these sub-topics of foreshadowing:
-Four more ways to show foreshadowing
-Tips and cautions

Hope this helped! Happy foreshadowing! For now....

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