1. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Giving Hints

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Killer300, Jun 26, 2011.

    Okay, I'm right now writing a horror novel, and it's actually going pretty well, however before I can really go much further, I need some tips regarding giving hints to the reader about something. I'm worried about the reader guessing what happens regarding a VERY big plot event that isn't coming for awhile. Should I not even hint at it for a couple chapters, or is it possible to hint in the first chapter, as long as the hint is sparse? Really need help on this one.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's called foreshadowing. Skilfully done, it enriches thye story. Less skillfully done, it ruins all suspense and looks trite.
     
  3. CottonCandi
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    CottonCandi Active Member

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    I have the same thing in my story and so I hint at this in certain chapters eventhough the reader doesn't know the outcome but it works in the story perfectly. When it does come out and all the dots connect it should blow them away.
     
  4. NecessaryPain
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    NecessaryPain Member

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    Hmm. How to put this into words.

    I don't know what most writers would do here, but I would prefer to see hints as well as misdirections. Make hints early on, and maybe allow the reader to think the foreseen 'twist/event' is coming, then afterwards, throw something out that contradicts the whole thing. However, still keeping the 'twist/event' alive.

    Misdirection is key. Otherwise you will have readers who will expect everything. Creating that block in their mind, will be the difference between a brilliant plot device, and a poor one. You want your readers to expect the unexpected. After all, pretty much everything has been done before. You won't be fooling most people unless you fool their minds first.
     
  5. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Ah, thanks. I mean, yes, I know of foreshadowing, but misdirection is something I didn't know as much about with that. Thanks.
     
  6. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Yeah, the misdirection is what I was about to suggest, it's called a red herring. But make sure the red herring is only an implied nudge, not a full-blown case of making it too obvious. Otherwise readers will know it's a red herring. Throw in two or three, not just one. (And more like 4 or 5 if it's a mystery novel)
     
  7. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    I agree with misdirection. Foreshadowing is difficult, believe me, but when you do it well it's pretty amazing. Maybe read some horror novels to see how it's done? The Shining by Stephen King is pretty good at foreshadowing, one of my favorite horror books.
     
  8. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    You have to be careful with misdirection. Readers like to be surprised, but they don't like to feel stupid or as if their time is being wasted.

    I read something about this in one of those Don't Do This guides to story writing. It contained an example of the writer misdirecting by foreshadowing something that never happened. There was a piece of chewed up gum on the bottom of a mantel, people kept getting dangerously close to it, and the author kept pointing to it as if it were significant. Then the maid found it and cleaned it up and that was the end of that. It was annoying to read.

    Good misdirection would be like in -- I don't know Harry Potter well, but I think it was the first movie where everyone thought that scary guy with the long dark hair was evil, and he turned out to be counteracting that evil guy's spell.
     
  9. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    I think it's not sufficient to compare Red Herrings vs. legitimate foreshadowing per se. What about something that is in between, or, perhaps, even both? It's hard to explain... but I'll try. For example, maybe the "hint" accurately foreshadows one thing, but is a red herring concerning another, if that makes any sense. I dunno. What I'm trying to say is that if you have a hint - a legitimate one or a red herring - you shouldn't just try to shove it into being a true foreshadowing or not. I guess...?
     
  10. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    Foreshadowing is very hard to do.

    Many a good book has been partially ruined when I guessed out the foreshadowing. In fact, this happens all the time. Night World? I immediately distrusted Hunter when he appeared, and sure enough, he's evil. Vampire Diaries? Let's face it, we knew Damon was there all along, and I already had a niggling suspicion about that owl(which turned out to be Catherine). Also, Vicky's insanity dropped me a big hint. And let's not even go into Dark Visions. I could practically guess the whole freaking plot.

    (Hmm, just realized all of those were by L.J Smith. Maybe she's bad at foreshadowing, like me? Some authors just can't do it.)
     
  11. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    Actually, reflecting upon this further, I don't think its necessarily a bad thing that we know what the hint is hinting at, that is, that we know what X character is going to do or what the direction X plot is going to take. What's important is that there's still an air of mystery, some information that is held back from the reader, that keeps them stupefied. For instance, so we know from "foreshadowing" that X character wants to do something real, real bad to Y character, but perhaps the writer can leave it ambiguous as to why. Why does X character want to do this? Perhaps with foreshadowing and hints we have some idea, but these are only ideas - and there might just as well be many theories that all are possible, so the reader has to read on to find out which of these possibilities are true. It's this kind of uncertainty and ambiguity - so long as its not overdone to the point where the reader doesn't know what the heck is going on - that keeps the reader knowing what's going to happen yet also not knowing what's going to happen at the same time.
     

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