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Foreshadowing

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by soczab, Jan 24, 2020.

  1. soczab

    soczab Third Year

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    I was curious on this topic. When it comes to fanfic with surprising moments, how much foreshadowing do you want? Obviously you want enough that something doesn't come out of left field, but also not so much that your hand is tipped.

    I was thinking on this, and I actually think this is harder to manage in fanfic then in original fiction. In a book off the shelf, all you have to do is make sure that your plot twist 'makes sense' so to speak. So for example, who are Jon Snow's parents in ASOIAF? When it is revealed if the reader goes "ohh, that makes sense" you are set.

    In a lot of fanfic though.. its not enough that it makes sense because you are dealing with pre-convcieved expectations. For example, if i'm writing a fanfict of Harry sorted into Slytherin... and he dies this time in his confrontation with Voldemort in book 4. Its not enough to go "well that makes sense. Voldemort is very skilled. Harry really got lucky in the books after all."

    Sure Harry dying could make 'sense' if we rationally dissect it. But you as the author need to lay some ground work because folks have expectations in fanfic.

    And how much is enough? For example, if your Harry say... is a bit cowardly and you show that by having him run for cover in the dueling club in book 2... is that enough foreshadowing to have him try to run from Voldemort rather than fight back (and thus die?) in book 4? Or would you want some more blatant foreshadowing like say... he picks out a different want in book 1?

    And when is it too much? Like if every chapter you had Harry moaning about how he sucks in duels that would be TOO heavy of a hand.

    I guess what I wonder is with major changes or surprise plot twists in fanfic, is it enough that it can be explained as "ohh that could make sense" or do you need to actually lay deliberate foreshadowing ground work?

    How do you all do it in your own work? Or in your experience any advice you've seen on how authors walk the line between giving hints in their work so something makes sense without being heavy handed?

    Any fics you think have handled this balance particularly well?
     
  2. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator DLP Gold Supporter

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    I think it's harder in fanfic because you dont tend to write everything all at once. So if you come up with something you put in a later chapter, it's harder to go back and fiddle with previously published chapters to add in setup and foreshadowing.

    Personally I have been holding off publishing the ending of my latest fanfic since as I write towards the end, I can go back and tweak previous story beats to fit in with my new ideas.

    Forshadowing should work in retrospect, so once the story beat is revealed, the reader can look back and see how it was set up thoughout the story.

    In terms of foreshadowing personality you can show this to be a factor in all the ways Harry handles conflict. He could avoid the midnight duel with Malfoy in book 1, for example. He could struggle with the fact he gets panicked in dangerous situations, though sometimes he manages to find a clever solution that does not require him to fight. Or he does occasionally do something heroic, but for unheroic reasons.

    Show examples when his charecter weakness let's let down and others where he gets through it so the final confrontation has the readers unsure if he will fight or run. Or they will expect him to overcome his flaws as he is the protagonist and are shocked when he fails.
     
  3. Silirt

    Silirt Death Eater DLP Supporter

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    We had a discussion once on writing good mystery, and it's the same in principle. If you give the readers too much, it's not really a mystery, but if you give them too little, it'll be like one of those classic Scooby Doo episodes where the man under the mask was not introduced anywhere in the episodes. It has to be possible to figure out, but it can't be that likely, which is to say you haven't necessarily lost points if a reader does figure it out, that person just happened to be clever or lucky enough to guess the right answer and use the clues you left to justify it.
    I have been pulling several long cons with my current series with very little foreshadowing as to how the mysteries will eventually be revealed. I have spared no effort in making them as difficult to figure out as I can without being impossible, because one of them will not be revealed until book five, and if a reader figured it out in the first book, some amount of the intrigue of the series would be ruined. As a general rule, I have decided that the further away the reveal is from the foreshadowing, the less useful the foreshadowing should be. The chapter before the reveal, you can generally give a pretty good hint.
    Off the top of my head I can't think of an example of this being done well in fanfictions.