Characters

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Foreshadowing, the Ties That Bind

Published June 5, 2012 by Diana

     Foreshadowing is necessary to add suspense, connect scenes, and convey information that helps the reader understand what comes next.  If you don’t use it, your reader will disconnect.   

     So, what is foreshadowing?  Think of foreshadowing as signposts in your narrative that lead the reader to a destination in your story.   The signs can be expressed in the setting, in a set-up scene, in dialogue, or in symbolic objects (and lots of other ways!)

In this post I’m going to have a little fun with foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing in the setting:

     Marcy woke up to Here Comes the Sun playing on her ipod alarm clock.  The bright tempo and lyrics bounced her out of bed.   Indeed, the sun streaming through her bedroom windows reflected the song’s sentiment and convinced her that today, she too would shine.  Last night she had worked on her portfolio long after Jay Leno said goodnight.     Now it pulsed on her laptop, a dazzling multimedia presentation.    This morning, she didn’t break the eggs, her coffee perked to perfection, and her toast didn’t burn.  Today will be different, she told herself as she pranced into the shower.   A few minutes later, she donned her only power suit, a coral skirt and blazer trimmed in navy blue.  Grabbing the flash drive and gathering her scattered papers into a folder, she headed out the door.    Carpe Diem!

{—this might be Marcy’s best day.}

Foreshadowing in the set-up scene:

     Marcy gripped the steering wheel of her Honda Civic as she rolled down Main Street at the tail end of the noon rush.   Why would anyone schedule an important meeting at one o’clock?  People are either sleepy from eating lunch or tired and hungry from skipping it. Well, that’s corporate thinking for youEither way, I’ll show them my prospectus and they’ll be eating out of my hand.  She squeaked by three traffic lights just before they turned red.  Bolstered by this good karma, Marcy was certain her interview would result in that promotion – Senior Merchandiser for Kmart’s Kitchen and Bath Department.    She turned right onto Crawford Street with five minutes to spare.    Those five minutes would be eaten up by red police lights flashing in her rear view mirror and the burping, sick horn of a police warning signal.

{—Marcy is going to be late.}

 

Foreshadowing in dialogue:

     Marcy rolled down her window as the officer approached.  “Is there a problem, officer?” she asked in a friendly way.

     “License and registration, please,” the officer replied, all business like.

     “Sure.” She fumbled through her purse, and then handed the items to the officer.

     “Marcy McDonald?  The break light on your passenger side is out.  I’m issuing a citation; you’ll have five days to fix it.  You’ll go to traffic court with proof of the repair and pay the fine.  Understand?”

     Marcy nodded.  

     “One more thing,” the officer continued, “are you planning on parking in this area?”

     “Yes.  I have a meeting in that building,” she said, pointing to a high rise across the street.

     “Then use the off-street parking.  There’s been a rash of break-ins at the municipal parking lot during the afternoon hours.”

     Great! I’m already late.  Finding an off-street space is next to impossible!  I’ll take my chances, carry mace, and lock my doors.

     “Thank-you, officer,” she said, flashing her friendliest smile.

{—Marcy is going to be very late}

 

     In my writing, foreshadowing is often constructed during rewrites.   How does foreshadowing work with you?  Do you write phrases about the future? Do you write changes in setting that guide the reader to a future event?  Do you write scenic elements that suggest emotions, emotions that are tacked on to what comes next? 

Share some examples of your foreshadowing by posting a comment.

Thanks for reading!

 

The Stein and Ms. Nine

Published May 24, 2012 by Diana

The writer married technology a long time ago.  Think about it.  They’ve always walked hand in hand – the invention of movable type, the ball point pen, the electric typewriter, and the ultimate machine – the word processor.  I thought it would be fun to consider writers of the 20th century like Hemmingway, Faulkner, or Fitzgerald using the technology of now.  Would they have accomplished more?  What would they say about it?  What would John Steinbeck think of word processors, the internet, or blogging?  To satisfy my curiosity, I invited Mr. Steinbeck into my imagination for an interview. 

Here’s a transcript of our conversation…

Ms. Nine:  Welcome, Mr. Steinbeck.  Thanks for spending e-face time on my blog today.

Mr. Steinbeck:  Please, call me ‘the Stein’; it’s my tag.

Ms. Nine: (the Stein??  I could NEVER!)… >cough< …I’ve invited you here so writers could benefit from your perspective on being a writer in the 21st century. 

Mr. Steinbeck: Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals.

Ms. Nine: Uh..okay, if you say so… This is my first posthumous interview and I’m a little nervous… So here’s my first question.  How do you feel about using a word processor?

Mr. Steinbeck:  I hate computers.  They know so much more than I do.  Using a computer forces a writer to think harder, faster, stronger. 

Ms. Nine:  Would these modern tools have helped you write?

Mr. Steinbeck:  After I won the big P for The Grapes of Wrath, it was tough getting back on track.   I mean, I still had more writing to do.  Maybe if I had a word processor I would have won that Nobel Prize a lot sooner.  Who’s to say?

Ms. Nine:  Would you have finished The Acts of King Author and His Nobel Knights?

Mr. Steinbeck:  You had to mention that thorn in my side.  I’m not making excuses, but in my day writers had to set priorities.    Yeah, maybe a word processor would have helped.  But back then writers believed in the perfectibility of man.  We didn’t write frivolously.  We wrote – I wrote – to bring awareness of the economic and social injustice of the time.  I was making a statement!

Ms. Nine:  This brings me to my next topic – J. Edgar Hoover and the League of American Writers.  Do you think using social media and the internet would have made a difference?   

Mr. Steinbeck:  If I could have tweeted about what happened to Charlie Chaplin and the Smothers brothers, the resulting public outcry might have stopped that Communist brouhaha.   I am clever with words.  But remember, if I could’ve had access to social media, so too would McCarthy and Hoover.  The ability of social media to shape collective consciousness is astounding.   It flows in all directions. 

Ms. Nine: One last question – would you have used a website to promote your work?

Mr. Steinbeck:  At this point, I have grown beyond my work, walked up the stairs of my own concepts, and emerged ahead of my accomplishments, all achieved without a website.  Ironically, now that I’m dead, I have at least a dozen.

 

Well, there you have it – a 20th century perspective on writing in the 21st century.  Makes you think, doesn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect Protagonists

Published May 22, 2012 by Diana

You’ve created the perfect protagonist.   He’s attractive, has a strong moral code, no physical limitations, and is highly successful.   He’s hard at work saving the world, rescuing the girl, and doing the right thing all the time.  But he’s exhausted.   So are his readers.  But he’s so perfect he won’t even tell you how tired he is.  Give your protagonist a break!  Perfect protagonists aren’t perfect. 

Let’s say the protagonists has to do something, something he’s expected to do.  But this time, this one time, the protagonist just can’t perform.  Is the world going to end?  Is someone going to die?  Then try letting another character take up the slack.

Like this.

     “Hey Yogi,  look over there.”  Marvin pointed to the six deer grazing under the mulberry tree.  “Go get ’em!” 

     The shade under the back porch and Marvin’s chair rocking had lulled Yogi into a state of semiconsciousness.   The black lab perked up his head.  His sloppy eyes fixed on Marvin’s.  He panted, but didn’t  follow Marvin’s finger.  Instead, he rested his head back on his paws.

     Marvin sighed,  “Come on, Yogi.  I can’t cotton to these deer going after my corn.  You know I can’t afford a fence – you’re all I got.”  He wanted to yank Yogi up by his collar, give him a nudge, a kick even.  But Marvin was a practical man.   Yogi  had worked the fields all day chasing away the deer and countless rabbits.  After doing his job for seventeen years, that old dog’s gotta be tired.

     “Alright, Yogi.  I can see you ain’t moving off this porch.”  Marvin stood up from his chair and put down his beer.  “I don’t blame you, not one bit.  So I’ll do it this time.”

     Yogi picked up his head again and wagged his tail a little as Marvin ran, arms wide, making loud turkey calls.   The deer scattered off,  just as if Yogi had chased them himself.  

See?  It’s okay to let another character take charge.  The perfect protagonist needs a break!

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