Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Writer'sWednesday: Foreshadowing

PHS Editor and Harlequin Historical author Michelle Styles looks at one of the essential tools in the writer's toolkit -- foreshadowing.

If you want your heroine to leap a tall building in chapter 20, you need to show that she is capable of jumping high several chapters earlier. If you want your utterly jaded hero to be redeemed by the heroine, you need to show he is capable of redemption (and indeed deserving of it) early in the book.

Skills and changes that come from nowhere can really pull the reader out, but skills and changes which are hinted at truly enhance a reader's experience.

Planting the skill or the gun or whatever in the early chapters needs to be done subtly. You don't want to red flag it. You simply want the reader to note in the back of her mind.

It is useful once the first draft is completed to look at everything which will be needed for the climatic scene and make sure that there is some basis for it planted in the book.
Make a list and make sure all the guns are in the drawers or that your heroine refers to her jumping skill obliquely.
You can sometimes use the three strikes rule -- if there is some thing she needs to accomplish at the end, make sure she has already had a couple of strikes and failed. The reader wants to believe that the outcome is in doubt. It is part of ratcheting up the tension.

In the case of the black-hearted hero -- give the reader a reason why they should be rooting for him. this is where a prologue can really pay dividends. Actually, I believe prologues are best written AFTER you have finished the first draft, rather than before. The prologue you write will be different.
I did this with Breaking the Governess's Rules and with one of my first books The Lady Soldier. In both instances, the hero at the start of the proper story was not all together likable, but hopefully because the reader saw him in a different situation first, his motivation became clearer and the reader could understand why he was worthy of being a hero -- even if the heroine didn't think so at the beginning.

It is the planting that can pay the dividends. So do a dedicated pass through to make sure all your plants are there as well as the payoffs.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances in a wide range of periods for Harlequin Historical. She has published over 20 novels. Her next novel The Return of the Viking Warrior is published in May 2014. You can read more about Michelle and her books on

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