Thursday, July 08, 2010

Foreshadowing... how did she do it?

Okay as writers we all know what foreshadowing is. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately as I watch Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince over and over again on HBO. I’m addicted to those books and movies like Molly’s kids are to Nemo and Wall-E.

The one thing about that movie that had me scratching my head was the scene they added at the Burrows that wasn’t in the book. Now JK provides a ton of material so I’m thinking why would they need to add a scene. I’m giving the director the benefit of the doubt that maybe he needed to destroy the house to set up a situation for the next movie. (I’ve watched the new trailer like 10 times trying to figure out what each scene is. I can’t wait!)

But what the director did really well in this film was the foreshadowing. The scene where Harry touches the ring after he and Dumbledore learn about the horcruxes is brilliant. It’s at that point (and if you haven’t read the books stop reading because I’m about to give away a major spoiler) that you realize Dumbledore knows that Harry is also a horcrux and what that means in the end. The line is well delivered to fit both the current situation and reveals what must happen before Voldemort can die.

He also sets the last scene with Ron apart from Hermione and Harry giving us a hint of what’s to come there as well.

Here is the thing though… this guy already knows how it ends. It’s pretty easy to foreshadow when you know what’s coming. And conversely it's just that hard when you’re in the middle of a series.

Now I can go on about the brilliance of JK in many different ways, but where she blows my mind is in the foreshadowing. If you haven’t read them in a while go back and start with book one and read them all the way through. She uses elements in book one that become major parts of book seven. All along the way she plants clues that that pop up, or lines of dialogue that take on huge significance later on.

How in the heck did she do that? How can you be writing book one and already know how book seven is going to turn out? How? Big picture, sure. But it’s the little details that made me read them twice and say… oh no she didn’t!

I mean seriously, I’m a writer. I like to think a competent one, but that is simply mind blowing. I’m writing what I hope will be a series right now. I have no freakin’ clue what I may need for a seventh book. It’s hard enough trying to figure out what I need for this book!

So let’s all take the time to think about people who have used the art of foreshadowing across multiple books well and give them a round of applause.

Because it is just not easy.


Eileen said...

Just being able to keep track of what you did in book 1 when you're writing book 7 is an accomplishment. To be able to actually USE the stuff from book 1 in book 7 is freaking brilliant.

Sometimes I feel like my subconscious does some of that work for me. I might put something at the beginning of the book that I don't realize will be useful at the end. Then it becomes a major plot point. Or a clue that leads my characters in the right direction. I don't do it consciously, but it seems to work out a surprising amount of the time.

Maureen McGowan said...

Some days I feel like being able to keep track of what I did in chapter one when I'm writing chapter 7 feels like an accomplishment.

I do think she did a monster amount of planning... but I'd also like to believe that her subconscious was at work, too... Realizing as she wrote book 7 that she could tie something back to book 1, or that she'd planted seeds she didn't realize she'd planted.

I do think she probably did lots consciously, too...

I often think of JR Ward with awe in this context, too... She often says that 10 books in that brotherhood series came to her fully formed... but then she also fully admits things like she didn't realize one of them was the Scribe virgin's son until she started writing his book, even though it turns out there were hints in earlier books foreshadowing something she didn't even know... and if you read the proposal for Dark Lover (in the Secrets book) she didn't even know that Zsadist and Phury were brothers which ended up being um, VERY important to both of their stories... So I take "It was all planned ahead" with a grain of salt.

That said, even keeping your world and your books in your head enough to figure out that stuff as you go, amazes me.

Sinead M said...

It amazes me as well. The sheer amount of planning and thinking, and the time involved, really incredible.

It goes to show how smart that lady is.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Keeping things straight from chapter 1 to chapter 7... how about when I started chapter 7 from a week ago to this morning.

I wrote three lines and thought wait a minute... went back and read the first paragraph... realized I said something completely the opposite...

So I'm am completely enamored of that type of world building. Both for JR and JK.

And the thing with JK is that those books were so BIG. One year of writing this massive 600 page volume and you remember that you want to set up a betrayal in book seven so you write a line that will do that.

I remember Nora took heat for getting a fact wrong in JD Robb novel. She's written how many 15? 16? One mistake... I would have 20 by then!

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