1. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    Forshadowing - Subtlety and a lack thereof

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by tcol4417, Jan 10, 2011.

    I already know that I'm not going to get a discrete answer to this question because there isn't one, but I feel like complaining anyway.

    Basically I'm trying to foreshadow some massively earth-shattering secret regarding one of the MCs, but it's difficult to do so without making it seem to obvious to MYSELF.

    I mean, seeing as I already know I look at just one of these and I'm like "Well that just gives it away completely"

    But at the same time, it probably doesn't. I could load up the story with tonnes of these things and people would still be like "What?" when I lift the final curtain. It just feels like Darth Vader calling Luke Skywalker and asking him how his grades in school are - profoundly unsubtle.

    So anyway, here's a basic exercise to see if my audience can guess at what the biiiiiig secret is based on the hints that I've planted so far.

    Basic Premise
    Hint #1
    Jack hears a rumour that if Jim dies, the world will end. When Jack tells Jim this, Jim reacts oddly at first, then laughs it off.

    Hint #2
    Five completely different cities are so close that as they expand, they kind of melt into each other, forming a hodge-podge mess of cultures and races.
    Jim says "Damnit, you put five cities within walking distance of each other for convenience and THIS is what happens."

    Hint #3
    Jim's letterbox has been set on fire and all of his letters have been reduced to ash, save for a single red envelope. The letter is from someone Jim has been avoiding throughout the entire story, but upon reading it he runs out the door without saying anything. Jack picks up the letter and it says
    "Further the narrative: The MacGuffin is within reach."

    I'll post the answer once I've heard a few guesses.
     
  2. Vintage
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    Vintage Member

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    Jim is the author of the story?

    EDIT: Oh, and the reasons I think it is such: The book ends if the author dies, it's easier to transport your characters when the cities are within walking distance, and the fourth wall-breaking in the last hint.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Jim God and Jack is his son ;)
     
  4. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    On hint 1: Jim is a god.
    On hint 2: Jim is a god.
    On hint 3: Jim is the writer.

    3 was overly in-the-face I think. If you only had 1 and 2 and then made the big reveal it would have worked well for me. My reaction would be something along the lines of "Oh, right, I should have guessed that. But at least I knew something was off with that guy!" which, to me, is by far the best reaction to a twist.

    Certainly beats "Yawn... I knew that." at one extreme and "WTF?? What a wall-banger." at the other.
     
  5. bumblebot
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    bumblebot Senior Member

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    Same for me.

    Maybe if the text of the letter was a little bit more obscure.
     
  6. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    Jim hears a rumor....

    Who does he hear this from, an angel? How would anyone know about Jim?

    I suggest that based on observing Jim in action, the kid worries that without a guy like that, the world would end. So, he just has a guess about Jim and you can keep this up where the kid is impressed and worried by the man's behavior.

    I'm reminded of a little kid watching their mom or dad and they seem to know everything. In real life, the kid tends to learn they do not, but that wouldn't be the situation here.
     
  7. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    No comment much on your hints. I was thinking a bit of the "God" idea, but not really focused.

    Anyway, I wanted to comment on:
    Jack picks up the letter and it says "Further the narrative: The MacGuffin is within reach."

    Love the line!

    -Frank
     
  8. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    Oh, I also forgot this hint:

    Jack: What do you DO?
    Jim: I'm a contractor.
    Jack: What's a contractor?
    Jim: ...Never mind.

    Yeah, I figured the letter was a little unsubtle - I'm planning on having MacGuffin in there somewhere though.

    There's a lot of rumours surrounding Jim - that was just one of them. Depending on who you ask he's either the true heir to the throne, over a thousand years old, under seven days old, a warrior, a divine seer, a dangerous madman, an alchemist, a carpenter or an ambulatory canoe.

    Anyway it turns out that Jim (reminder: Not the MC) actually wrote the world into being (so writer is partially correct) but "fell into it" to find that it had grown completely out of control and he couldn't get out. Basically imagine that you had a strawberry patch ten years ago and one day you trip, fall and land in Jurassic Park.

    So for the past 4 years, Jim has been fulfilling the "Hero" role with middling success in the chaotic, self-propelled version of his world - Think TRON, only nobody actually knows who he is and he isn't about to tell anyone.

    The letter is a big twist because it essentially means that an NPC is also in on "the game" - I'm debating whether to make this character a self-aware entity, a "player" or a puppet of the self-aware plane of existence.

    Jack follows him on the odd jobs that Main Characters get sent on in these worlds - slay the dragon, save the princess, five coins and thank you very much, bye bye now - and gradually gets a hero's grasp on the world (it sucks, but you need money for food) while Jim tries to find a way "out".

    Anyway, thanks for the feedback. Looks like I'll need to revise the last one and pad a decent amount of spacing between these hints, but I knew that anyway.
     
  9. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Ohhh - how about this for a twist?

    Write it as a trilogy, with Jack finding out the truth during book three. Jack then hears all sorts of details about the amazing "real world".

    Sooo, Jim does get back to the real world only to find Jack has fallen there too. Jack has imagined himself out of his world.

    At the very end of the book, we find that the world isn't quite what Jim remembers. They have both fallen into a world that sprang forth from Jack's mind, from the details given by Jim. Fade to black, as they say about movies.

    ;)

    -Frank
     
  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That sounds AWESOME!!

    And OP - I had no idea what those hints were about, but Jim's clearly an important character eh. I think I'd find the idea of Jim being "god" a little anti-climatic though... but that depends on how you write it.
     
  11. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Could be his (former) editor from a publishing company.
     
  12. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Regarding foreshadowing, I happened to think of mysteries. It's often the case that mystery writers want to reader, at the conclusion, to realize in hindsight that there were clues all along. Of course, my favorite crime-drama series was Columbo, where we knew all along who the criminal was and how the crime was committed. The enjoyment was watching Lt Columbo circle the truth in his own way.

    You may find it better to avoid worrying about foreshadowing too. Whether the reader is told the truth from the beginning or never truly knows, the enjoyment will come from a well written story, with [un]sympathetic characters, vivid descriptions and well thought out plots.

    I did have a couple thoughts about your world though. First, I would assume that your author was the hyper-prolific sort, such as Terry Prachett. So, when he goes missing, is there a boost in interest in his books? If so, does all that fan-imagination make the world more vivid or powerful?

    Also, what would happen if there were a popular fan-fic? Better still, what if the publisher hires a writer to continue the series?

    Could your MC encounter an unknown village created by this author? "Hey - where'd that come from?" So, he finds himself in an unknown place, facing unknown dangers. Perhaps, hearing the speech patterns, he eventually figures out who the new author is. "I bet they got Chris Smith to continue the series! Okay, so when does his 'cat-headed demon' show up?"

    -Frank

    ps: Of the clues you gave, the "five cities" one was the only one I found off-putting. It just felt like a pointless thing for the character to note.
     

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