Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Foreshadowing Key Details

Let’s be honest from the start. We’ve all read a book or seen a film where the hero / heroine or another main character suddenly develops a previously untold skill. In other cases the killer has turned out to be a character so peripheral to the main plot that logic has flown out of the window along with your interest.

For me nothing kills a story quicker than a new skill / villain first appearing five pages from the end of a novel. This is clearly an author not knowing how to finish the story and deciding to invent a skill or character just to finish off the story.

Foreshadowing is the term for drip feeding information throughout the story so that when the conclusion happens, the plot is plausible and the reader is left feeling satisfied rather than cheated.

It can be something as simple as having a character washing their judo clothes or meeting someone from their judo class for a drink. This tells the reader that the character knows some martial arts, so that when they start kicking butt it’s natural action.

Again introducing a peripheral character throughout the novel works, provided you give the reader enough information to remember the character. Cycling past on page seven of a three hundred page novel isn’t good enough and anyone doing this deserves all the scorn they get.

One of the best pieces of foreshadowing I can bring to mind is the film Die Hard. The hero is tense on a flight and a fellow passenger advises him to take his shoes and socks of when he gets to his hotel and make fists with his feet. The hero duly does this and later in the film when he is still barefoot he is hiding in a room with glass walls, the head baddie who had already seen the hero was barefoot told his men to shoot the glass. The action then cuts to a scene where the hero is standing on his bare tip toes with broken glass all over the floor.

As usual comments and feedback are always welcome.

Monday, 18 June 2012

What’s in a Name?

Quite often when I’m writing I struggle to give my characters the right names. This is because a name conveys so much about the character I’m trying to portray.
A well chosen name can give the reader so much information before the writer even begins to flesh out the character. Take these three names for instance: Mavis, Chelsie and Quentin. 

To my own mind the names conjure up the following details about the characters.
Mavis – A homely woman in her 50’s or older. Possibly a church goer and married to someone called Bernard or Ernest.
Chelsie – A young girl or child. Will probably sport a tight ponytail and wear cheap tracksuits.
Quentin – An upper class gent who is forty plus and is most likely out of touch with the real world. 

The opinions are of course exaggerated but the do show the power of a name. Take Chelsie for example. If it was spelled Chelsea then it conjures up a totally different character. 

Some better writers than me have chosen their character names very well. Zoe Sharp’s heroine Charlotte Fox goes by the name Charlie which alters her persona by making her seem more macho with the regendering which takes place by the shortening of her name.
Michael Connolly’s main protagonist is called Hieronymus Bosch after the painter but his Christian name is shortened to Harry. This gives Connolly the opportunity to introduce Bosch’s back story whenever he wants.
Some character names such as Matt Hilton’s Joe Hunter or Tom Woods’ Victor do little more than offer a “does what it says on the tin” message about the character.

The reasoning above is why deciding on a character’s name is one of the most important parts of writing for me. I feel that if I get that right then I’m halfway to being able to depict what I need to about my characters.

If any of my readers can leave me a comment on how they choose a character name then I’d be grateful for any tips or advice.