Today I'm sharing a few of my notes from a class taught by the awesome J. Scott Savage. He taught what was called an Intensive which was a limited attendee (meaning you had to sign up in advance) two-hour session. His class was about using subtlety.
Eighty percent of what a reader gets from a story is not on the page - J. Scott Savage
We were shown examples of what he called thesis statements. We should all remember those from school. A thesis statement kind of an opening remark. Bill was tired. (hint: was should be a warning sign--besides being passive, it Then the author goes on to describe all the things that indicate the character is tired. That opening statement of Bill was tired is actually the author intruding in the reader's experience to point something out. Better to just show the reader.
After doing some exercises where we all reworked a thesis statement Scott provided (the examples were fascinating in their variety and how they could completely change a story), he talked about a few other things and had us once again work through scenes provided:
* Good foreshadowing doesn't call attention to itself.
* If the reader notices it all, they shouldn't know what is being foreshadowed.
* It increases the power of the story when the event occurs.
* May have circularity (great blog post explaining this here).
* To get you looking in one direction while bringing something else from another.
* One of the most powerful tools if you're not too heavy handed--don' let the reader see you doing it.
* Mention it early as an aside - let the reader assume something that turns out to be wrong.
* Ask yourself what your character could believe that might end up not being true.
As anyone who knows me, knows I'm a huge Harry Potter nerd. J.K. Rowling is the queen of foreshadowing and misdirection, of things hidden in plain sight, of subtlety. Her hints about so many things are often only obvious when rereading the series. For example, there are hints in both Order of the Phoenix and Half Blood Prince about Snape's Patronus. Anyone know what those were?