Sunday, March 11, 2012

Foreshadowing

I could do something clever by hinting about this blog post in a bunch of previous posts, but I think I mentioned it once already, and I have a friend visiting this week, so not a huge surplus of time.

As you know if you've studied anything at all about writing or literature, foreshadowing is when hints are sprinkled throughout the narrative that give away the ending. An unsatisfying ending can usually be chalked up to an inadequate buildup through foreshadowing, while a predictable ending is because the foreshadowing is too heavy-handed.

But if you're a pantster, like me, you're not going to know how your book is going to end as you're writing. Therefore, you're not going to know what to write in to telegraph the ending perfectly. People who write outlines might have this problem, too, because they're too focused on just telling the story to remember to write in hints about the ending, though I imagine it's easier to write in some foreshadowing from the start.

So, if you're a pantster, how do you make sure the ending is perfectly appropriate to what you've been writing, and that the ending feels satisfying to anyone reading it?

The first way to do it is to let what you've written guide you to the ending. By that I mean, you're going to write in odd details or scenes that were just plain fun to write. They might not be logically connected to the nebulous plan you have in your head, but you wanted to include them. When I write such things, as I approach the ending, I wonder how they might tie in to how I want the story to end. I try to figure out how to use them, so I can keep them.

It must be awful to be an outliner and have to toss those scenes out.

The second thing I do is edit it in. Editing is important for anyone who wants to be published, but it's doubly important for a pantster to go through the manuscript at least a couple of times to clean up all the random flailing that is the first draft. At least one pass of edits, if you're a pantster, should be spent on inserting hints and warnings that refer to the end of the story. Do at least one read-through of the story as if you've never read it before, and are looking for clues to tell you what happens and how much you should dread it.

When I sent my manuscript out to my beta readers, I knew I'd adequately foreshadowed the end because no one said anything about the ending coming out of nowhere. Of course, I'm not sure if that's the best example of a pantster at work, considering I'd written and rewritten that book enough that I knew the ending by the time I tackled that last draft. It may not be outlined, but I do know it better than a lot of the other stories I've banged out.

Tomorrow, I'm going to post about why I've rewritten that story so often, which has nothing to do with a reluctance to submit. See you then!

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