The other day, while working on Refuge in l’Acadie (the second book in my Kesk8a series), my Muse suggested an interesting twist. I said to myself (I think I even said it out loud!): “Ooh yes! Like. Like.”
This meant I had to go back into the story and tuck a bread crumb in early and I did this with great delight.
(I thank the Goddess of Cyberspace for inspiring the computer. It makes it so much easier to add this bit in here and move this bit to there and remove this silly bit than it was in Ye Olde Days when we used electric typewriters — or Before the Dawn of Time when we used manuals.)
Bread crumbs are the basis of mystery stories. Imagine how utterly useless and beyond boring a mystery story would be without clues or foreshadowing (http://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/foreshadowing ).
We can ramp up any genre with bread crumbs to improve any story immensely.
From Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for transforming your first draft into a finished novel by James Scott Bell:
A good discipline is to write as much detail about the ending as you can before you get there. How exhaustively you do this will depend on what kind of writer you are, but one of the benefits of this practice is that you can ‘marble in’ action in your story that pays off later. This will give readers the feeling that there’s more going on beneath the surface — always a good thing.
In one of the [many] screenwriting books I’ve read/studied — and I apologize profusely for not remembering which one — I gleaned the greatest advice about writing a movie and I utilize it for anything I write now: Write your story/book/movie backwards.
Why? Cause and effect. Effect and cause. This happened because this happened because this happened … Backwards.
Any time the prolific Stephen King is asked Where do you get your story ideas from? he replies: “I ask myself ‘what if?’”
Asking ourselves what if? sets the stage for not only the consequences of that “if” but will make us ask: why did this happen in the first place?
Equally as uninteresting as a mystery without set-up is an event with consequences only.
The eruption of a volcano with its subsequent panic of townsfolk running here and there and interacting and causing lovely, lovely conflict among themselves is exciting. Yes.
Even more thrilling to read/watch is a book/movie in which the Antagonist (Bad Guy) did something to cause the volcano to erupt.
What caused the Antagonist to do this? And Might he do it again, somewhere else? Oh, no! is the essence of that question.
Was he compelled?
Is he a brilliant scientist and the actual Antagonist has, perhaps, kidnapped the scientist’s daughter?
And why would this actual Antagonist decide to force a scientist to blow up a volcano in the first place?
Back up, back up, back up.
A favourite TV series for me is Motive. Opening scene: some action goes on. A close-up. Across the bottom of the screen: THE VICTIM. Another scene. A close-up. Across the bottom of the screen: THE KILLER. Then the story of why the killer did it begins to unravel. http://www.ctv.ca/Motive.aspx
To weave subplots into our stories and have everything tie up neatly at the end, we almost have to start at the end and place our bread crumbs as we make our way to the beginning. This way, we will have no bread crumbs without a reason for them.
Which leads into my next post — No Loose Threads
Sherrill Wark is the author of Really Stupid Writing Mistakes: How to Avoid Them: http://www.amazon.com/Really-Stupid-Writing-Mistakes-Avoid/dp/1479308226
… and Death in l’Acadie: a Kesk8a story (fiction): http://www.amazon.com/Death-lAcadie-Kesk8a-Sherrill-Wark/dp/1511501154/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8