David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell – A Partial Review

I haven’t finished this book yet.

It’s not a work of fiction, either.

It is, however, a book that teaches through telling stories and that’s worth writing about.

If you were to ask me in high school whether or not I thought of myself as an intelligent person, chances are I wouldn’t know how to answer that. By looking at my grades alone, I might have told you no. Though I might also have to caution you that throughout all my years in school, I never tried.

During my bitter, dark days I like to blame the way education is handled. It’s a system focused more on memorization and thoughtless obedience than the type of creative free thinking that leads to ingenuity in solving long-standing problems like harmful cultural teachings.

By no means am I going to sit here and try to convince you that I’m some type of genius. I am not. If anything I’m a fake masked by eloquent speech, great posture and a slightly inflated sense of importance. If I’m being honest, a great smile also helps. What I want o highlight here, is a word of caution.

Chapter three of Malcom’sDavid and Goliath is titled, ‘Caroline Sacks.’ It tells the story of a young girl who wanted to be a sicentist. Ever since she was little she would go out into the backyard with a sketchbook and a magnifying glass to look for bugs. Unlike me, she excelled in academics – never knowing what it might be like to do less than an A-. In fact, she did so well that, when it came time to find a college, she was accepted into Brown University.

The entire chapter explores the Big Fish Little Pond theory – asking those to ponder whether or not it’s better to be a little fish (Caroline Sacks) in a very big pond (Brown) Or a Big fish (Caroline) in a little pond (Her second choice university.) The simplest way to put it is to imagine being the best at something among the people that you know – and finding your merely average or, worse, under average when surrounded by those considered specialists in that thing. In more cases then not, this leads to giving up.

davidandgoliath-malcolmWhen I was still in school, many friends and close family got to telling me about all the things I was going to regret one day. I was going to regret not going to prom. I was going to regret not getting out to party more. I was going to regret not taking those AP classes. They also said I was going to regret not going to college.

I never regretted a single thing. Not after graduation. Not after years deep into customer service, minimum wage jobs. I already had a dream and once school was over I finally had space and time to tear into all the books, articles, and talks on that one thing I was passionate and excited about. (It was writing in case you didn’t know.)

Here I stand ten years later unpublished and newly moved into a haunted Bed and Breakfast to work as a live-in Inn Keeper, (I will write about this eventually) writing my confession of regret.

I wish I had gone to college.

No, wait.

At the root of it, I regret never learning how to try.

As I was reading this chapter (ignoring all the creaking floorboards over my head) I started to wonder how different my life would look if I hadn’t been so stubborn. Or, rather, that stubbornness was harnessed. what would have happened if someone picked me up and dropped me in the middle of a school or a class that was so far over my head I thought I might drown in it? I like to believe I would have learned what it was like to struggle for my effortlessly average standing.

I graduated without ever doing a single scrap of homework or project. If it required even a small amount of at homework, it wouldn’t be done. That included studying. Maybe if I had tried I would have learned more of my passions in time to strive for something greater. Maybe I would have noticed that my passing love for psychology, was actually an ignited passion for neuroscience and brain psychology.

I regret that.

Don’t get me wrong, the education system needs to change. Every year it seems to become more inaccessible to those of limited means. But it’s important to appreciate education when you have it, and make the most of every tool you have before it’s gone.

I’ll write more on this book once I finish it, but so far three chapters in, I say it’s well worth the read.

The Bird and the Blade – Megan Bannen – A Review

Once upon a time, while scrolling through professional photographers on Instagram speckled by the fan-crazed posts of book lovers and published authors alike, I stumbled across a little something called, Shelf Love Crate. Okay, that was partly a lie. What I really stumbled on was a picture someone posted of one of these boxes – included in it, a set of character tarot cards for V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series. The end result of my inquiring was the discovery of these little boxes.

Inside you get a hardcover copy of a new YA fantasy author, signed and snuggled all around it – all the best little trinkets any dork would love to have. Like those tarot cards – for example.

My box came in late August, featuring a signed copy of The Bird and the Blade, A Goblet of Fire maze puzzle, and coins from a Y.A. book I haven’t picked up yet but intended to at one point, Six of Crows.

The Bird and the Blade is a 401-page fantasy novel written by Megan Bannen that takes place in the Middle East during the time when Genghis Khan’s blood relatives remained fierce rulers. It follows the story of Jinghua, a slave in the Kipchak Khanate, and her struggle between finding her way home, and her growing love for prince Khalaf.

Synopsis: As a slave in the Kipchak  Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom… until the kingdom is conquered by enemy forces and she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father across the vast Mongol Empire. On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to ue the Kipchak’s exile to return home. A plane that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into an impossible love.

Jhingua’s already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand – and if they fail, they die.

Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf’s kingdom— his very life— on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she’s capable of… even if it means losing him to the girl who’d sooner take his life than his heart.

shelflovebox1Before we get into my thoughts on the story, let’s look at the writing craft. It was serviceable. I didn’t come across passages or sentences that made me pause to appreciate the hypnotic sound of the words on the page, but nothing that stoked my vengeful ego into proclaiming, ‘why, I could do better than that.’ either. (I have to admit, sometimes I like those sorts of books if only because it gets my butt in gear) Megan’s style carried the story along and made the character’s voices clear and their emotions unveiled. If I were to fault anything it was the few instances where the style seemed to break a bit to make way for much more modern phrases.

My favorite elements of the story were the shifts in the timeline. I can always appreciate a book that carries me, not on a straight and narrow path, but takes me on a journey through past and present. It reminds me of what it’s like when you get to know a person. Chances are you don’t sit down with them one day over coffee while they regale you with their life story. Bits and pieces are revealed as more trust is passed between you. Jinghua herself I found to be an easily relatable character. What she lacked in appearance, wit, and strength, she made up for in courage and loyalty.

As the story progressed I found myself more invested in her developing relationship to Khalaf’s father then to the dashing prince himself. You could also blame this on my recent feelings about romance in novels. For the better part of the first half of the book, she spent a lot of time talking about how pretty he is, and lingering on the one kindness he’d shown her in her time being a slave. There was development between the two as the story progressed, but I had a difficult time feeling for them and their romantic plight.

The riddles were interesting and well worded. My favorite being the first one:

She is the dragon with the iridescent wing

Stretched taught across the bleak and yawning void

To whom the hallow human heart must sing

When, with it, like a cat with prey has toyed.

She only lives in shadow’s heave hue

When, invoked by man, is night her reign.

So every dusk gives birth to her anew,

And every dawn destroys her once again.

I had almost solved that one.

The ending… I struggled with whether or not I wanted to write about this since it does contain spoilers. But, for those who read it and understand, the sun rose too quickly after the final curtain dropped. She could have held on.

All in all, I found it to be an enjoyable read. Not one I would go back to in the future, but one I’m glade for having finished.

Romance in Fantasy and YA Novels

For as long as I can remember, it’s been of a most popular opinion that something about me is, quite simply, a bit off. Some think it’s the crystals and half-conscious ghost talk. Some think it’s the glazed, intangible look in my eye at various points in the day. But many would agree the most astounding strangeness, is my inability to understand the maddening importance of romantic relationships.

The population, on the whole, has a tendency to take this one form of love and put it up high on a nigh unreachable pedestal. It’s considered in many ways (especially to the young) to be a form of love comparable to the brilliance of the sun. A sun that, sometimes, burns out all other forms of love. The love between close friends. The love between siblings. The love for a parent and their child or a person and their pet. Even the love for your greatest enemy. (If you’re into that sort of thing.)

If I’m being entirely honest – and I try to make a habit of this – I have no idea if romance is true the way you can read about it in a book or see it happen in the movies, because

 

tarot 2cups
Shadowscape Tarot Deck

 

I’ve never seen another person and felt the world tip off its axis. That isn’t to say I don’t know love. I’ve been deeply and completely in love with every person I’ve invited into my life for however brief a time they were there. (Okay fine. Most people.) I’ve always believed love was not worth giving unless it could be given with your whole heart. No matter what form that love takes.

That’s why, despite my adoration for Disney fairytales growing up, I find myself where I am now at nearly thirty.

I am sick

To death

Of romance stories

It’s become a challenge for me to find a good fantasy book where the romance doesn’t saturate the plot. There’s always a man. There’s always a woman. And more pages seemed dedicated to whether or not they fall in love than to if they manage to overthrow the evil emperor or whatever kids get up to in fantasies these days.

 

There’s nothing wrong with a romance arc. Despite the strangeness I share with others on this planet, I understand it’s often an important part of people’s lives. (Though I suggest you look into cultural norms and start asking yourself why you think and feel this way. Who knows, you might be chasing after something that will never make you happy.) But it’s not the only part of our lives. It’s not the only relationship worth writing about. In my opinion, it’s not even the most beautiful form of love there is.

We’ve reached a time where it might be beneficial to start telling new stories and expanding on the entire experience of being human rather than rehashed pieces of it. That means enough with romanticizing abusive relationships in YA books. Stop teaching girls that they can change abusive dick bags. Stop teaching boys they have to be abusive dick bags. It also means teaching young adults to value more in their lives than whether or not they fall into this strange fairytale love we keep out of reach on that blasted pedestal.

 

City of Ghosts – Victoria Schwab – A Review

Life has a way of happening, you know? As it turns out, so does death.  City of Ghosts is V. E. Schwab’s first book in her new Y.A. book series, narrated by Cassidy Blake. A girl who, after drowning in a river, comes back to realize she can cross the veil separating our world from the personalized purgatory of ghosts. Oh, and her best friend is a ghost named Jacob who can read her mind.

This strange ability is making life interesting enough, but then her parents get a T.V. show deal that lands them in one of Europe’s most haunted cities, Edinburgh, Scotland. There, she meets a girl who shares her peculiar gifts, discovers her purpose, and goes head to head with an urban ghost story, The Red Raven.

A quick side note, this book isn’t available to buy, yet. (It will be very soon.) I was fortunate enough to get a signed, uncorrected proof during my last minute book con dash that involved a lot of luck and magical timing. You can read that adventure here.

Now, Onward with the review!

I do not believe in a reality where I pick up a Schwab book and go away dissatisfied. That being said, this was no, “Kell wore a very peculiar coat.”, either. What I love about

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Personal artwork loosely inspired by The Red Raven.

Schwab’s work is the seemingly effortless way she draws you fully into the setting and world of the characters. (Anyone who writes knows it is not, in fact, effortless but sometimes grueling and soul-sucking.) She does this not by plastering saturated words over soggy loaves of prose, but by finding the essence of a place and breathing life into with a few well-placed sentences.

 

She does the same in City of Ghosts. I’ve never been to Edinburgh, but when I’m following Cassy through the dreary haunted streets, I feel like I have been. I feel like I know the smell in the air and cobblestone streets and the gift shops and the ghost tours. It’s a delicate skill that she’s mastered.

Another thing I always look forward to in Schwab’s work is character. There wasn’t a single one who I didn’t love. Cassidy’s parents, the ghost hunter and the professor, were delightful. They didn’t get much time in the book itself but the few pages they had dedicated to them made me smile. I adored Jacob the ghost. He is the epitome of the ghost all of us aspire to be one day. If I have any complaint at all it was that I didn’t get to learn more about the main protagonist, the Red Raven.

In a small way, it also felt like a head nod to Vicious what with the whole, coming back to life with strange powers. I’m not complaning. It’s lovely to imagine that these two series take place in the same universe.

On the whole, it was an enjoyable, if not slow start to what is going to be a fun adventure in future books. It does what the first in a series if supposed to do. The characters are fleshed. The setting is shifting. The plot dice are rolling, and I’m eager to find out where they land next.

Happy reading.

-Side note: Have you ever heard of Shelf Love Crate? Every month you get a themed box shelflovebox1based on different Y.A. Fantasy novels. You get a signed book, and tonnes of other fun things like puzzles, books marks, candles, socks and more. My next review is going to be on the Y.A. book, The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen that I got in my July crate. Check out their website here if you’re interested.

American Gods – Neil Gaiman – A Review

Despite my reservations about Gaiman’s style, the Graveyard book gave me the nudge I needed to venture into more of his darkly enchanting world. There was one title I heard repeatedly while contemplating his next work? American Gods. It seemed a good place to go next. Did it disappoint? Well, I wouldn’t say that it disappointed, but I wasn’t floored into submission either.

I’m sure most have either read this book by now or watched the hit T.V. show. For the sake of consistency (and those who, like me, tend to wait until popular fiction is nearly forgotten to pick it up for themselves) lets back up a bit.

American Gods, follows Shadow who, while serving his time in jail, discovers that his wife, Laura, died in an accident. While on the plane going home he meets a grizzled old man who calls himself Wednesday and is offered a job playing chauffeur and bodyguard. Shadow, a man with nothing to lose, accepts.

It’s a very simple premise

Myth2
Inspire by American Gods

masking some complex questions all centered around the mauled, ever-changing spirit of what we call today, America. In that way, at least, I can say Gaiman came close to capturing that spirit. Not only with the invention of new gods like those of fast food, television, and freeways, but of the eternal ever-beating heart of the earth where we walk. The very earth the Natives of this land gave thanks to every day they traversed it.

What did I like about it? Gaiman paints a picture of gods being prisoners to our every wish and whim. Locked not only into the laws that we believed for them but dependent on our continued belief. The idea itself has been around for a bit now, but to me, this was gone about in a very human way. After all, if it was our intense belief that created Gods, then we created them in our image. We gave them our anger. Our love. Our jealousy. Our passion. Neil does a great job showing us the humanity of these forgotten gods. They are con men, prostitutes, morticians, homeless drunks. They are afraid and stubborn and blind and wise – filled with faults and pettiness and fierce loyalty.

There wasn’t a moment with the Gods that I didn’t enjoy. It was fun trying to guess their identity even if I wasn’t as familiar with the lore where they originated. Bast and Ibis were brilliantly done but I found Odin to be… not what I would have expected him to be. I enjoyed the part of him portrayed in the epilogue better.

What bothered me? I can think of one thing that tended to be a continuous itch.

What the hell was Shadow’s job?

He didn’t drive all that much and he sure as hell failed at being a bodyguard. When it was brought up, all that was ever said was that he was special, or that he was important, but I couldn’t find a particular reason why it had to be him and not anyone else. In the end, it’s a timid flame held up to the blaze of a bigger picture, but I would have liked to know more.

Other then that it’s the usual nitpicks I tend to have with Neil’s style of writing. it’s a little slow and distant.

All around I would recommend the book to anyone looking for an adventure that mimics a dream. You’ll remember it even if it doesn’t become a favorite.

BookCon 2018 and Meeting V. E. Schwab

Have you ever had one of those moments where a thought strikes you out of nowhere and you have no other choice but to act on it? That’s how I got to BookCon on Sunday and managed to meet V. E. Schwab.

Now, I can write this in a way to make it seem like a grand event. A meeting at the hands of fate and fortune. The strings of destiny braiding down to the crossroads of choice and action. In actuality, it was dumb leprechaun luck coupled with a friend who’s far more outgoing than I.

I’ll back up a bit.

I uncovered Schwab during a time in my life where all the comforts I knew – my apartment, friends, house plants, and cats were taken by various circumstances. The outcome was me, my bike, and a backpack filled with necessities like a few changes of clothes and a shower pack. Everything else was in a storage unit that I couldn’t reach without a car.

Things were fortunate in a few ways. It was an uncharacteristically warm autumn and winter. I had friends and co-workers who let me sleep on their sofas. And, I had a locker at work, and no one minded that kept tea and a teapot inside and came in every morning to sit in the breakroom to have my morning cup.

Around August was when I lost everything, and around January is when I found a place to set in a few roots. If I were a plant at this point in my life, then I would have been a sad one who went through a bad transplant that resulted in few leaves, weepy branches, and a loss of vibrant color.

Even though I found a place to stay, it was still without any of the usually homey comforts. I slept on pillows and blankets on a wood floor in the spare room and kept a small hot water heater and a line of teas against the wall. There was a single window and a slanting roof and a small door in the wall leading to a nightmare attic space with a stained, folded mattress in the center of the room. (Horror movie fuel.)

I needed comfort. So, next chance I got I went to the library. To be perfectly honest once I started studying story and writing craft, reading had begun to lose some of its appeals. Part of the joy was not knowing how I was being subtly manipulated on every page. Finding a book to enjoy became an arduous task involving reading first pages, middle pages, dialogue, and imagery. I needed the guarantee that I could be immersed in the world and forget the occasional peek behind the wizard’s curtain.

In the library that day, I discovered a book in a white jacket with bold red and black artwork. It was called A Darker Shade of Magic. It had an invisible force pulling me in. The second it was in my hands I felt it was the right choice. I read the jacket – pirates, alternate worlds, magic, a thief – it was quite simply every story I’ve ever loved packed into one.

I read the first sentence, “Kell wore a very peculiar coat.” and I slammed the book shut because I knew it was exactly what I needed at that time.

“For the ones who dream of stranger worlds.” She dedicated it to.

It was, in fact, exactly what I needed at that point in my life. For the first time in years, I devoured every page of a book. I laughed, and cried, and mourned it when it ended. And, during a time where I was ready to give up on my own dreams, It gave me hope that maybe I could get published one day too.

Reel the tape forward again to now, after I got my friend hooked on ADSOM and during a remarkably stable time in my life. I stumbled on the news that she was going to be in the big apple for BookCon. We paid the $40 into the city. We paid the last minute $45 fee to get into the convention. We dealt with the endless amount of confusion, misdirection, and downright disorganization (seriously they need to organize these things better)  And, in the end, we were cut off right before getting into the booth where she signed books and spoke to her fans. But, we retained the stubborn hope that all was not lost. She was scheduled for another signing in a few hours.

We wandered off to find this second location, the both of us determined to make the most out of our last minute trip. To be perfectly honest, while in that line, before we were cut off, I asked whatever guides or spirits or gods were there to give me a chance for nothing more than to say hello.  And while I was coming to terms with that fact that it may have all been for nothing, my friend gasped, pointed, and Schwab was walking down the hall with her editor right toward us.

In the end, I got my hello. I would have been happy with that alone, but I also got a picture with her. What else can I say? She’s just as sweet, gracious, and lovable as she is online and in her books. Despite being mobbed by her fans she took it all with a measure of thankfulness and love that was wholehearted and astounding.

Maybe I was too shy to say more than hello. Maybe she was too busy for me to talk with her and pick their brain a bit, but I am eternally grateful for that opportunity.

Moral of the story?

Plane ahead of conventions.

Wear comfortable shoes.

And bring snacks/water if you’re going to spend half your day standing in inchworm lines.

Oh, and always bring a friend along who’s more fearless then you are. (I probably never would have approached her without you.)

This was a long one. Thanks for reading.

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P.S. I know I look awful. Give me a break. I was running on maybe three hours of sleep after a full work week.

Nod- Adrian Barnes, A Review

This was one of those books I picked up on a whim. I usually try to avoid bookstores. My shelves are stacked to the point of bending and the paper bricks are starting to pile up next to my bed. For that reason, I try to buy the authors I know I love and take the rest out of the library. Despite all this, somehow Nod made it into my collection.

Was it worth it?

To be honest, I was originally going to write a bad review for this book. The main character felt emotionally detached from everything that happened and I was less than pleased with the lack of woman characters throughout the book – and where one was, the only purpose she seemed to serve was for the sake of the main male character to have something to lose. (To be fair, I can understand someone becoming emotionally detached when faced with a cruel and dangerous new reality. He did change halfway through the book, but it was a jarring switch that I felt could have been built up better)

Nod-Adrian-Barnes-616x956Let me back up.

Nod is a 271-page book (If you include the author’s note which I highly encourage) about a man named Paul who lives in Vancouver at a time where the world ends. It was published first around 2012 and was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke award. You can find it in the fantasy section.

Instead of world war three, zombies, or a crazy viral outbreak doing humanity in, it was insomnia. One day, for reasons never explained, 90% of the population loses the ability to sleep. In the weeks that follow, they gradually lose their sanity before their bodies give out and they die. Paul is of the remaining 10% who do sleep, and so becomes the observer to the madness.

One of the first things I look for in anything I read – is it written well? Call me a snob, but I need to enjoy the style to get into the story. It happened around the time I began studying writing and story craft, and I think it a sacrifice a lot of committed writers make in pursuit of literary ambitions. The writing was… passable. In that, so long as no one was speaking, I loved it. The style was crisp and simplistic. I’m not sure if it was a purposeful thing or what, but he had a tendency to put character names into speech.

“I still love you, Paul.”

“Go see your Tanya, Paul.”

“But what about your work Paul?”

It got to me.

What I found most difficult, was the ugliness of the book. The setting was ugly, the smell was ugly, the people decrepit. I tend to be a sensory person, so it was difficult to dedicate time to a world that made me cringe no matter what corner I turned. At its heart, it was an angry, mean little book with little hope of a satisfying ending.

So, why did I change my mind?

For starters, I finished the book. I was about the write this review without finishing it if I’m being perfectly honest but I’m glad I waited. That isn’t to say it had a miraculously happy ending. I probably would have hated it more if it did. It simply made me realize how good we have it here.

My view of modern life and society on the whole is… er… cynical at best. Which is why books like this are hard for me to swallow. It takes all that infuriates and disgusts me and puts it under a high powered telescope.

I won’t give it away, but Nod drifts off leaving a lingering feeling of gratefulness tinged with hope for the potential of the future. It’s a book that’s okay with leaving questions unanswered. Simply put, that’s exactly how life is anyway.

Dose Nod make it to my top five? No, but I know it’s going to be in my head for a while to come. I think it’s worth checking out if you go in prepared.

How Atmosphere, Suspense, and Foreshadowing can make or break a scene

I’m a sucker for a scary book. Or a scary scene. Or a particularly chilling snippet of dialogue. Something about it gives me chills of pure delight. When reading we pick up on these notes in a very unconscious way. They are where they’re supposed to be. That is – in the background not unlike the stage props on Broadway. I know I know, when it comes to writing a lot of us learn unconsciously through reading but when you know the mechanics behind what you’re doing it means you get to twist things in new ways instead of relying on all that intuitive learning that lead us to mimic the greats.

So, in honor of all things horribly delightful, I want to talk about atmosphere, suspense, and foreshadowing, and how they can make your prose too delicious to put down.

Atmosphere comes across mostly in setting the scene at the beginning of chapters and it’s all about word choice, and consistency. I think it tends to be the most intuitive of the bunch. Chances are if you read, you’ll end up having some idea how to set the atmosphere for the book.

A Darker Shade final for IreneThe easiest way to do this is through description. Take a look at this passage from V. E. Schwab’s, ‘A Darker Shade of Magic.’

“- every inch of the city, day or night, summer or winter, bore the same pall, as though a fine coat of snow – or ash – had settled over everything. And everyone. The magic here was bitter and mean, and it bled the world’s life and warmth and color, leaching it out of everything and leaving only pale and bloated corpses behind.”

Bitter. Mean. Bled. Leaching. These words have a sinister edge to them, right? One that paints the harsh unforgiving nature of both the place and the people. It sets you up to be on guard and a little unnerved. Can you imagine if she said, and it milked the world’s life and warmth and color?

Paying attention to powerful and descriptive words will get the reader amped up. Kind of like foreplay. Or taking a bath vs taking a bath by candlelight with rose petals and a glass of wine.

Suspense can be a little more tricky, but I think this has a lot to do with what we see in horror movies that rely – most of the time – on build-up music and jump scare. In that way, I think a lot of writers (myself included, unfortunate I know) believe suspense is in hiding information to later jump out and startle the readers. Suspense is actually created when you give information to the readers. One of the best ways I had it explained was in the book, ‘Troubleshooting Your Novel,’ by Steven James.

“Mystery concerns the past; suspense concerns the future. In a mystery, the characters try to solve a crime, piece together a riddle or resolve a conflict. In suspense, they try to stop a crime or tragedy. Mystery appeals to readers’ curiosity, suspense to their concern.”

In other words, if the reader knows the scary thing is in the closet, but the protagonist doesn’t, we’re going to be worried as hell about them every time they get close to that closet door.

On the other hand, if we don’t know what’s in that closet, there’s no build up to when the protagonist finally opens the door and confusion over whatever jumps out. A lot of suspense is triggered by giving a damn about the characters of the story, but I’ll leave that little diversion behind for another day.

Foreshadowing is kind of like a thief isn’t it? (I do love a good thief) Only, instead of taking things it goes back and leaves little treasures behind. A reverse thief. The best thing about it? It saves you from a little pitfall (one I constantly fall into) called coincidence.

Coincidence is when someone passes out during a climactic scene and one of the characters declares, “Let me through I’m a doctor!” Convenient, right? And it takes away all the suspense.

Foreshadowing is when, in an earlier and inconspicuous scene, that same character had the reason or need to show or mention that he was a doctor.

The trick to this is making sure those scenes are, as I said, inconspicuous. One of my61XfS2XCw3L._SX345_BO1,204,203,200_ favorite examples of this is in N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season.

There are people referred to as Roggas who can shake the earth (literally) and, also, stop shakes. There are places called node maintainers to stop those devastating shakes from happening.

I won’t get too into it, but let’s say the kids who get relocated there, are fully aware and completely incapable of so much as blinking let alone changing their heart-rending situation.

How does she set up the moment where our main character stumbles into this atrocity? No more than an earlier conversation in which someone (who knew the truth) casually asked, “You’ve never been to a node, I take it.”

So, what are some ways to foreshadow effectively?

If a character has a skill that’s going to be needed for those big moments, make sure it’s oh so subtly addressed beforehand. Kind of like that doctor I mentioned up there.

If there’s an item or relic, introduce it in a discreet manner beforehand. It could be something like a pen a character is always holding until that moment it’s revealed to contain a deadly poison that saves their lives. Or, you know, something along those lines.

Foreshadow who will be present. Instead of having a rightwing hero swinging into the rescue out of thin air to make everything all better again.

 

That’s all I have for you right now. This is a re-boot of some advice I’d written on my abandoned blog back on Blogspot.

I hope it was helpful.

Take care and keep writing.