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Ever watch the sixth sense? Ever watch it twice? Watching it the second time is so frustrating because you watch it and think, “How did I miss that?” We all should have known that he was dead the whole time, but we didn’t — at least most of us normal people didn’t.

I’m not a fan of M. Night, but he did this one well. The clues were there, and those clues hollered at you! But we missed it? Why? Because we were so engaged in the story that we missed the hints. They added up, but somewhere within our “sixth sense,” we should have known.

How can we allude to things to come without giving away the very thing that’s to come? Important to note is that the thing that we’re hinting at does not have to be a plot twist, like in The Sixth Sense. It could simply be a plot point.

Here’s an easy one:
You want it to be a surprise when the main character dies?
A simple line from his girlfriend could be, “What would I do without you?”

You may read it now and say, “Clearly he’s going to die.” But you only know that because I told you. If we cloak the girlfriend’s line in a romantic scene between the two of them, it just seems like something that she’d say.

In my opinion, foreshadowing is eerie because the reader glosses over your initial line, and then when it happens, the reader is left thinking, “Writer, how could you do this to me?” And your response is, “I warned you.”

Is foreshadowing necessary? No. But it helps. I’m waiting to publish my trilogy because I want to amp up the first two books with some “things to come.” And some of these things are only revealed as I write.

I will do this differently once I start working on my saga, which I hope to begin by the beginning of next year. With my saga, I will try to publish each book as they’re completed.

But back to you. With your WIP, how can you take your end goal and weave it back into your starting point?

A good example of this happens in The Patriot with Mel Gibson. He says something like, “I always knew my sins would come back to haunt me.” And even though we know they will, the ways that they do just really tear at your heart!

Anyway. I hope this helps. Take care!

2 thoughts on “DANGLING THE BAIT

  1. Patty-chan

    Is it wrong to use foreshadowing to trick the reader? For example, before the big climactic battle, could I have my two main characters drop hints such as “What would I be without you?” or “Do you think we’ll make it through this?” to increase the tension, then have both characters come out alive?

    1. William Stadler Post author

      What you just mentioned is not wrong. That’s your character’s perception of what could happen. But to answer you initial question: “Is it wrong to use foreshadowing to trick the reader?” I’d say in most cases, yes.

      I am going to write a blog about this soon, but there are certain “promises” that we can’t make as a writer if we don’t plan to deliver. If keep telling the reader, “We have to get the sword if we’re going to kill the villain.” Then there’d better be a sword that you get to kill that villain.

      Killing the villian any other way is a let-down. Now the sword could be a metaphorical sword, but it had better be some kinda’ sword or you’ve just lied, and your readership will never trust you again.


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