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"Bolt out of the Blue": How to get the audience to accept the improbable?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Logos&Eidos, Nov 25, 2016.

  1. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    @ Chessie

    Yes so much! A conversation. I'm so with you.

    I do this a ton!

    A character is going to lose a best friend due to a selfish decision? Have him accuse her of being selfish and always using him for her own gains. (did that)

    A character is going to confess all her lies and tell the truth for once, that she acts strong because inside she's terrified? Have him tell her way back in the beginning that she can insult him all she wants, he knows who and what he is, and one day she'll have to look at who and what she is...will she be so content with her own truth? (did that).

    A conversation is a wonderful way to bring things full circle. Have a character deny something exists, and then show them it does.
     
    Heliotrope likes this.
  2. Jackarandajam

    Jackarandajam Troubadour

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    Since we're dicing this concept into more manageable bits, I'll go ahead and take a stab at categorizing myself; I think, after re-reading, I'm referring to "moral" foreshadowing, or the books philosophical theme.
     
  3. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    I had fun with that in Winter's Queen. The MC's friend mocks her for believing in Fae, and demand she prove that they exist; not two seconds later the villain looms out of the shadows and says, more or less, "Here I am. Do you believe in me now?"
     
  4. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    where do I read these books, Ireth? I'm dying to see them.
     
    Ireth likes this.
  5. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Ah, yes. I do so love this aspect of writing fiction. When you can incorporate a theme strongly into plot and story, the final result can be one of a nicely wrapped present with a big beautiful bow. An emotionally and intellectually satisfying gift to a reader.
     
    Heliotrope likes this.
  6. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Right. And in the case with Scully, she denies the fact that she's been kidnapped by aliens/the government (and is therefore kidnapped several more times, which leads to her cancer). So that particular conversation actually foreshadows some serious shit that's coming her way in the rest of the series, since it all takes place during several years.

    Far as foreshadowing in my work...I typically do it in layers. I don't always see/know/understand what it is that I'm doing when I put something like that in. I'm dense like that. It's only after the first draft or two that I have a larger concept, the bigger picture if you will, and am able to tighten those sorts of intricacies.
     
  7. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    I'm dense too.
     
  8. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Lol is this why we've been at this for so many years and sometimes it feels like an uphill battle? :banghead:
     
  9. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    I'm hoping the current round of revisions will be the final one; then I can work on polishing it up to send out sometime in the new year.
     
  10. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    @ Chessie. I hear you, girlie. Frustrating to the max. But just look how far we've come, right? It's time for a breakthrough.

    "Make it work."--Tim Gunn.
     
  11. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    @ Ireth So they're not posted anywhere, in part, even? Well, if you ever want another set of eyes on them before submitting or whatever, you let me know. I'm already excited about them, so I'd be happy to give feedback or whatever you need to get them finished :)
     
    Ireth likes this.
  12. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    I'll definitely keep that in mind! Thank you!
     
  13. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    Oh, that would be splendid. I've seen how much work you've given to these stories, and am really excited about the concepts. Your writing has a really authentic tone and I loved the flash you did with the vampires for my challenge.
     
    Ireth likes this.
  14. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage

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    @ Michael K. Eidson
    You may have done foreshadowing in a manor that appeals most to me, making the world,the setting contain the possibilities that can happen in the world.

    I was already thinking along those lines, would you be willing to share at least some of your techniques?
    And if at all possible examples of others writers having used a similar method?
     
  15. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    Okay, sure. Let's say you want your MC at the climax of your story to have an epiphany about the Bad Guy by using the ability to experience Bad Guy's past. For this to seem believable within the story context, earlier in the story the reader needed to see that experiencing the past of someone else is possible, and see a demonstration of the rules that the MC will have to abide by during the climax. The reader does not have to be given every detail about the rules. That would require an info dump or lots of otherwise unnecessary examples. But some relevant demonstration of rules needs to be given to the reader.

    So early in the story, the MC learns that experiencing the pasts of other people is possible and is told by her Mentor that she should be able to do it. The MC tries to use the ability, but only gets vague impressions of her Mentor's past. On her first attempt, she catches a brief glimpse of a moving curtain. On her second attempt, she sees a blurred figure flying by, like watching a bird through a fogged window. On her third attempt, she feels like she's suffocating, but sees nothing. Her Mentor tells her to focus on the emotion of fear while trying it. She tries it and still fails, saying she doesn't know how to make herself feel fear without provocation. So she goes through a period of practice in which she tries and tries to feel fear while trying to exercise the ability she supposedly has. Eventually the memory unlocks in her head of the time when her foot was caught in a bear trap when she was four years old, alone in the wilderness, unable to help herself. She was rescued, of course, but she'd spent a day and a night fearing for her life. Her young mind had blocked the memory soon after.

    But now MC has a source of fear that she can draw on. So she tries again with her Mentor. She finds herself in her Mentor's head at a time when he was drowning. She realizes the curtain had been water closing over her head, and that she'd seen the bird with water-logged vision. But it wasn't her that experienced these things. This had happened to her Mentor as a boy.

    Before her Mentor can teach her more, some emergency requires his attention. He must leave, and it's too dangerous for the MC to go with him. She doesn't see him again for the rest of the story. But she does keep practicing, focusing her fear, and steadily improving in using her ability despite not having her Mentor's guidance.

    Later, MC uses her ability on Good Boy, focusing her fear. She experiences a moment in Good Boy's past when he was hiding in the bushes as a child, afraid to make a sound because Bad Guy is searching the area. MC hears the twigs breaking under Bad Guy's boots, hears his heavy breathing through his full-face mask, sees his black armored form moving slowly by as he scans the area, his eyes passing over Good Boy's hiding spot, making MC afraid that Bad Guy will see her. It's not really the MC that is in jeopardy of being discovered, of course, but the use of this ability makes her feel like it. She uses her new-found empathy with Good Boy to bolster his confidence to take on a dreadful task that lays before him.

    There are other occasions during which MC uses her ability, focusing on fear each time to make the ability work.

    Skip ahead to the final confrontation. MC has been captured by Bad Guy. His Henchman is preparing the device whereby he will kill MC. There's nothing MC can do except to use her ability to experience another's past, hoping she will find something useful. She tries to use the ability on Bad Guy, focusing not only the fear of her four-year-old self, but some real fear for her life now too. She gets nothing on Bad Guy. Why doesn't it work? She tries again and fails. She tries on the Henchman, and experiences the time when he agreed to become Bad Guy's henchman. Back then, Bad Guy had threatened to kill Henchman's family, adding that no one needed family anyway, that having a family only served to cause heartache.

    MC talks about the Henchman's past, trying to persuade him to not be the bad person he's become. But he keeps on with his task, paying her no mind. Bad Guy, however, clenches and unclenches a fist as MC talks. Thinking Bad Guy might be more vulnerable now, MC tries again to experience some moment of his past, but her fear-focused ability still doesn't work on him.

    MC recalls in the very beginning of her training, she'd been able to get vague impressions without focusing on fear. She tries her ability on Bad Guy without focusing on fear. This time, she gets something! She's running through a forest for an instant before the scene evaporates. She tries again and gets a glimpse of small footprints on a pond's muddy bank. She tries again. Young Bad Guy is kneeling at the edge of the pond. MC sees the reflection of his younger face, stricken by grief. Has she seen that face somewhere before?

    MC puts all her inner strength into maintaining her link to Bad Guy's past, but this fails. Now she feels drained. But she tries again, knowing this might be her last attempt. She uses her ability not on Bad Guy, but on herself, not focusing on fear, but love. And she gets a good long look at that face, that familiar face, not grief-stricken now, looking down at her four-year-old self, a kind face, a loving face, a long-forgotten face, the face of the father who four-year-old MC left behind when she fled into the woods to cry when her mother died.

    Back in the present, she tells Bad Guy that she knows where he can find his long-lost daughter....


    Okay, so, we can talk about how much of the above is foreshadowing and how much of it is laying down rules. But the foreshadowing that occurs here comes about by applying the rules. One of the most important rules for this story turned out to be that the MC could get vague impressions of a person's past without having to focus on fear. That rule is mentioned only briefly in the beginning of the story. The focus on fear takes over the story. But in the end, the focus on fear isn't what works. It's that briefly mentioned rule about getting vague impressions that comes back to save the day. We also see that fear is not the only emotion that works for the MC. Nowhere was it said that another emotion would work, but it wasn't ruled out either. By recalling that the main rule (focusing fear) was not the only rule, MC thought to try something new. She extrapolated a new -- related -- rule, that another emotion (love) could serve as the focus for her ability. This extrapolated rule (focusing on love instead of fear), isn't used to solve the main story issue, but is used rather to help give the reader a satisfying closure to the story by prolonging the final experience the MC has in her past self's head looking at the loving face of a father who, after the staggering loss of his wife and daughter, became the Bad Guy of the present.

    As for other authors who do this, consider the first Mistborn novel, The Final Empire. That book has plenty of rules about Allomancy and other things. That story would not be the same without those rules. But it goes deeper than merely laying down the rules for the magic systems in that story. At one critical point in the story, it's important for Vin to recognize the significance of one person's manner of dress. I consider a world's fashions as part of world-building. The means by which the necessary knowledge of fashion is conveyed to Vin might be considered foreshadowing, but such foreshadowing goes hand-in-hand with the world-building.

    I consider any event in a story to be evidence of a rule. Showing an event happen is equivalent in my mind to demonstrating the rules. Stating the rules in a huge info dump is boring to me. I like demonstrating multiple rules and drawing the reader's attention away from the important one, but not so far away they forget it. Then bring that rule back to the fore to save the day. If that's foreshadowing, well...okay then.
     
  16. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage

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    @ Michael K. Eidson
    Thank you your answer, who else uses this type of foreshadowing besides Sanderson, yeah I've read all of Mistborn and the Stormlight Archive.

    This environmental foreshadowing is what I'm interested in.
    Because the other more common type of foreshadowing isn't appealing to me, the last thing that I'd want to do is expose elements of the plot before they come into play, though I'm fine with tell people what I want them to know. The game of coyly hiding information from the audience is unappealing and more than a little insincere; is a plot point is truly supposed to be this big shocking turn then there should be indication that it's coming.
     
  17. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Logos, all good stories have this style of forshadowing if you look for it. It is not a fancy trick used by certain authors. It is used by everyone, regardless of genre or style.
     
    Ireth likes this.
  18. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    I'd not call it a fancy trick either, but I would propose that some authors execute the technique better than others. It's been a while since I read them, but Isaac Asimov and his robot stories come to mind, and his Foundation series.
     
  19. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    Many authors do this well but the first one that came to mind is Jay Kristoff because I just read Nevernight, which had several instances of this that worked well IMHO.
     
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  20. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage

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    I want "environmental foreshadowing" to be my primary avenue for foreshadowing.
    The idea of giving away story elements before the story would naturally reach them, is
    something that I don't like. Personally I am beginning think that this teasing out of story beats
    has left us all spoiled and more than a little confused.

    People complain about a transparent plot and they complain about ones where the elements are completely opaque
    and catch them off guard. Me personally I only want to tell the audience things they need to know, the hows and whys of setting and the intended destination of characters.

    I may have mixed metaphors at some point and I'm sorry for that.

    A "bolt out of the blue" is meant to catch people off guard, it isn't something that people shouldn't see coming.

    A "Bolt from a storm cloud" is culmination of the storm/plot brewing up.

    How do I get the most out of both? :confused:




    What constitutes good execution of this methodology?


    To you what made his use of it so good?
     
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