Planting Seeds

In the course of my freelance work for a writers’ advisory service I was reading a children’s story where a girl’s gran presents her with a magical pendant. The problem was that till then it had been an ordinary gran/granddaughter relationship, and this mysterious imagesdevelopment felt abrupt, jarring. I’m sure such a development it could be introduced as an out-of-the-blue developement, but in this case it didn’t quite work and I advised the author to ‘plant’ something earlier: to drop a hint, tantalise the reader, somehow subtly imply that Gran might be up to something or have something important on her mind.

I think it gives an extra page-turning quality when you plant seeds like that – make the reader think ‘Hang on, there’s more going on here than meets the eye.’ If an apparent goodie is going to turn out to be a baddie, have him telling a lie in Chapter 5 that the reader can work out for themselves through a hint in Chapter 10. If a semingly strong new relationship isn’t going to work out because Joe doesn’t do commitment, plant a clue that he might have kept his return ticket rather than throwing it away. But don’t give too much away – the subtler the better.

The converse also applies. Don’t introduce hints or elements that appear to be significant but which come to nothing or feel like loose ends. To paraphrase Chekov, if you mention a gun in Chapter 1 it should have gone off by Chapter 3. (I believe he also said ‘Three ready to beam up, Captain,’ but I may have got that wrong…

About ramblesofawriter

Writer, thinker, tea drinker.
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