Life in progress

P is for … Predictability

20 Comments

The subtle art of foreshadowing takes skill – some may say great skill – for if it’s done without, a work of fiction can be fatally predictable. After all, who wants to read or watch something when it’s painfully obvious exactly how the story will conclude?

For me, there’s nothing better than a story with a twist. Being strung along to believe one thing to find out that what I thought was true never was is part of the art of foreshadowing. It can be done well (The Sixth Sense) in which case the foreshadowing was so subtle as to not be there, or it can be done wrong. Maybe you can come up with a good example. They tend to be the most forgettable stories out there.

I’m hoping to get some kind of twist out of the fiction A-Z story I’m writing alongside this. If you’re reading it, I hope you’ll stick around to the end to let me know how I did. In the meantime, I’m looking for any accidental foreshadowing that already exists, since I had no idea where the story was going as I began it. I think I have an idea now.

How much predictability is too much for you? I’m wondering if there’s anyone out there who likes to know the end before they get there.

A bit of a twist, for you: http://lindaghillfiction.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/p-is-for-peppered-to-taste/

Author: Linda G. Hill

There's a writer in here, clawing her way out.

20 thoughts on “P is for … Predictability

  1. I read a comment by another blogger somewhere who said he reads the first sentence and the last sentence before deciding to read a book. I could never do that! I like to let the story unfold as the author intended and see if I can guess where it’s all leading.

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  2. in my writing group we do a lot of twists – in order to do so have to start at end and work way back – it’s quite a challenge. And I love foreshadowing – it’s necessary no matter the type of story

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    • I don’t think I could write the ending of a book before the beginning – unless that was the order the story went in. To even attempt it would definitely be a challenge!

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  3. You are absolutely right when you say that the subtle art of foreshadowing takes skill! I’m not sure that I possess that skill (yet?), but I certainly love reading it. I think that Julian Barnes is a ridiculously brilliant writer, and when I read The Sense of an Ending…well, I wanted to read the whole thing again to pick up on all of the places that he had added those subtle layers of foreshadowing that I hadn’t quite pieced together before.

    That said, I think that my tolerance for predictability depends on my reason for reading the book or watching a show. If I’m reading or watching a murder mystery, I do not necessarily want to figure everything out by page 9 or within the first 9 minutes of the movie/TV show. When I read The Fault in Our Stars, though, I knew exactly what was going to happen by the time I finished reading the first chapter — but I didn’t care! That book is very much about the journey, not the destination. So, sometimes predictability doesn’t ruin it for me.

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    • Good point about the predictability depending on the book. Sometimes the ride is enough to keep me reading too. ๐Ÿ™‚
      I’ve never read Julian Barnes. I’ll have to look him up. ๐Ÿ˜€ Thanks Allison.

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  4. I’m not sure why, but The Sixth Sense messed me up. I cried from the Pine-Sol scene until we got home, and I really wanted to call my mommy, lol! After a few more of these films, none of which messed me up, I went into The Village determined to find the twist before it was revealed, and I did. I whispered it to my husband when I had discovered it.
    Another good one that scared me was The Skeleton Key. But there are plenty of good ones. Definitely favorites of mine, the unsuspected plot twist. Sometimes it’s hard to determine what your reader has pieced together. We don’t want to insult them, but we don’t want them confused. That part of writing is definitely an art.

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    • I gave up on M Night Shymalan (or whatever his name is) after Unbreakable. It felt like he was trying too hard. But I can’t watch The Sixth Sense anymore. After the first couple of times it scared me silly. I’m not as brave in my old age as I was when I was younger. ๐Ÿ˜›
      You’re right though. After I’ve written something it seems SO obvious to me what’s going to happen that I figure everyone will see it ahead of time. …unless I don’t know what’s going to happen before it does. Then all foreshadowing goes out the window. *sigh*. It’s tough.

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  5. Odd little note on the trick of “The Sixth Sense”……….about thirty years ago, I wrote a short story about a woman who is mourning the loss of her husband and believes he is visiting her as a ghost because of the clues around the house, and now and then, she catches glimpses of him. It isn’t until she reads a newspaper clipping on his desk about her demise that she realizes she is the ghost. Consequently, I wasn’t surprised at the film’s revelation. As to reading the last chapter of a book, I would rather stick needles in my eyes than succumb to that practice. However, my daughter, if she’s reading a book that in any way disturbs or frightens her, will flip to the last chapter to know how it ends before picking up where she left off.
    I’m looking forward to reading your book, and I’m heading right now to click on your heading. Talk to you later.

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    • Oooh — your story sounds great!

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    • Your story sounds like the movie with Nicole Kidman in it… what was that called? They must have stolen the idea from you. haha
      Thanks very much for reading the story on my fiction blog. I’m just writing it on the fly, so there are (I know already) a few inconsistencies. My novel will be better, I hope. ๐Ÿ˜›

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  6. I’m still waiting to find out what happens to Jupiter and Xav, so I would say not predictable at all. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  7. The twist in the Sixth Sense was masterful and soooo wonderful to experience.

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    • Wasn’t it though? I wanted to go back and watch it again, right away, so I could experience all the foreshadowing again – the cold air with visible breath and the colour red.

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  8. I like both! There is a satisfaction in “figuring out” the ending, such as in a murder mystery, but only if I feel “clever” for having done so…if it’s too obvious (like on certain tv shows) it’s not as fun. I do like to be surprised by an ending, too. Like KG said, “The Sixth Sense” was a perfect example of that moment when a whole movie theatre of people gasped at the same time ๐Ÿ™‚ As for Jupiter and Xav and Bob…I don’t have a clue, and it’s really fun!

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  9. Me!! There have been too many stories or movies (not the Sixth Sense though) where I knew the end, but still ended up watching it because I would want to know how the end is conceived and why. I have also known to read the end chapter of any thrilling book during my early reading days (the practice has stopped now) just to find out ‘who’ and then proceed with the book to know the ‘how’ , especially with some of the Agatha Christie’s novels ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • I could never read the last page/chapter of a book before starting it. In fact sometimes I don’t even read the blurb, depending on who the author is. Having said that, a good prologue or a story that begins with the end and then continues as a flashback can be very exciting as well.
      Thanks for bringing that up, KG ๐Ÿ˜€

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