Draco. Chapter 11. Foreshadowing and Payoffs.

“We’re out of water,” Miguel said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “You’re gonna get us both killed.”
I ignored him, trying not to think about my itching throat.
Miguel frowned, eyeing me suspiciously. “You know… you could say that walking me to death might be considered causing me harm.”
“Let the blood be the judge of that,” I said, searching the distant fields. We were in a green desert, with nothing visible past the vast forest of grass. Still, the grass around them was shorter than everywhere else. “We stop here.”
And with that, I plopped myself on the ground.
Miguel continued standing, looking down at me like I was insane. “It’s mid-day.”
“Yeah,” I said, squinting up at the sun.
“You refused to let us sleep for three nights in a row, and now you want to stop?”
“It’s all part of the plan,” I said, digging my palms into the loose dirt.
Miguel ground his teeth before sitting next to me. “Care to expand upon your plan?”
I closed my eyes, focusing on the stillness of the Earth. “Tell me about Geleo. How did you Claim him?”
I opened my eyes to find Miguel scrutinizing me, a frown on his face. “I found him and Claimed him,” he replied. “The pursuit of every Immortal.”
“You don’t just stumble upon a dragon and Claim it,” I said, “you hunt, you fight, and you keep fighting until you win.”
Miguel nodded. “Yes, I hunted. So what?”
I didn’t answer right away, content to let the silence stretch.
“Have you ever Claimed anything else?” I asked.
Miguel pursed his lips in thought. “A lion,” he said eventually. “My sister dared me. You?”
I chuckled, still focused on the Earth, listening to the wind brush against the endless stretch of grass. “Too many times.”
I didn’t elaborate, enjoying nature’s silence.
It wasn’t long, however, before Miguel broke the silence. “So your just content to let us die here? Are we even going the right way?”
“Shh,” I hissed, feeling a tremor in the ground.
“Are you —,”
“Quiet,” I whispered. “They’re coming.”
Miguel frowned, starting to stand.
I grabbed his wrist, pulling him back to the ground as the animals came closer. The sound was distinct, like distant thunder; hundreds of claws simultaneously slamming against the Earth, loosening the ground on which they trampled.
“Horses,” Miguel whispered, recognizing the sound as well, stretching his neck to try and see above the grass.
“They’re running at half-size, trying to hide from predators in the tall grass,” I whispered, catching a glimpse of them in the distance as they ran toward us. “Fortunately, that means we might be able to catch them.”
Miguel pulled out his knife, licking his lips as he got to his feet, squatting in the grass.
“You don’t need that,” I whispered. “Just catch them before they get away. We need them healthy.”
Miguel ignored me, tightening his grip.
“Be patient,” I insisted, “once they get a little closer…”
Suddenly, Miguel raced toward the herd of horses with a hair-raising scream, knife in hand.
I cursed, hesitating briefly before following behind.
As soon as Miguel screamed, the horses grew in size, suddenly standing twice as tall as us. From a distance, it was have seemed as if dozens of giant horses had appeared out of nowhere, letting out screams of fear as they stopped in their tracks.
Miguel had almost managed to close the gap between him by the time the horses managed to change direction, but he wasn’t fast enough.
They were already starting to run full speed away from us. I knew their speed on land was unmatched, there was no way we could catch them.
Miguel screamed even louder than before as the horses began to pull away. Then he threw his knife as hard as he could at the last horse in the herd.
I scoffed, knowing the blade couldn’t possibly pierce the giant creature’s scales.
The knife landed short of the horse’s hide, seemingly bouncing off its leg as the herd pulled away.
“That was our way out,” I yelled, catching up to Miguel.
“Still is,” Miguel said, jogging after the herd.
“You scared them off,” I said, grabbing his shoulder. “We could have used them to get out of here.”
“And we will,” Miguel hissed, pointing in front of us. “Look.”
Furious, I looked at where he was pointing. The herd had vanished; every horse except for one.
The lone horse was limping, left behind by its herd as it labored through the grass.
With a look of triumph on his face, Miguel jogged toward the injured horse, leaving me to follow behind once more.
“What did you do?”
Miguel didn’t answer, slowing down as we approached the animal. As soon as we got close enough, the horse stopped and dug at the ground, using its claws to create a hole.
Desperate, the horse curled up, burying its face and limbs in the ground, leaving only its dark scales exposed. It was an effective technique against dragons; not so much against us.
“I pierced its paw,” Miguel finally answered, standing over the horse.
“We can’t ride it,” I said, amazed at what he’d done. “We’re still stuck here.”
“We’re not gonna ride it,” Miguel said, digging the horse’s head out of the dirt. “We’re gonna use it as bait.”
And with that, he placed his hand against the forehead of the horse, claiming it as his own.


 

In Chapter 1, I talked about the importance of questions and answers in a story. Your story should make the reader ask engaging questions so that, later on in the story, you can answer those questions in a satisfying way.

Well, in this chapter, I’m going to discuss the specifics of how to both set up the question (Foreshadowing) and follow up with the answer. (payoff)

I should note that one of the readers of this blog asked that I cover the concept of foreshadowing this week, and so I wrote this chapter around foreshadowing. Which is a very difficult thing to do within a single chapter, not to mention without any sort of editing process.

BUT, it’s still actually quite possible, because, truly, every level of storytelling is about foreshadowing and payoffs.

 

FORESHADOWING

The Introduction

  • The classic anecdote about foreshadowing goes something like this: don’t describe the gun unless someone is going to use it
  • Though cute, the saying is not entirely accurate. There may be plenty of reasons to describe the gun besides a character using it. Maybe you want to give context to a situation. Maybe you want to throw the reader off the scent of the true killer. Etc.
  • Therefore, a better saying might go like: don’t describe the gun unless you (the storyteller) are going to use it
  • So you, as the storyteller, must have some sort of plan for literally everything you describe

 

PAYOFF

The Rule of Three

  • I may have mentioned the rule of three or alluded to it in an earlier chapter, but let’s go over it in detail, because it is extremely important
  • For something to work in your character’s favor, it must be done at least three times (in any significant way)
  • Think back to the beginning of the story. Would the story be interesting at all of Draco had escaped from the stadium on his first try? No. everyone who reads that is going to either consciously or sub-consciously go “oh, no, problem. Too easy. when’s the hard stuff going to happen?” Even with me telling you that he’d tried to get free countless times before the opening fight, it would still feel super-cheap for him to get free immediately. So I made him work for it, and on the third scene, guess what? He got free. (with help)
  • The same thing should go for every object and every person in your story. The harder your character has to work for it, the more satisfying your story is going to be

So, I’m going to try and break down every single type of foreshadowing in this chapter in order to give you a glimpse of how prevalent this is:

The chapter starts with an argument over Draco’s leadership/intentions.

  • It’s the second argument of that nature since they escaped from the city… potentially preparing you for something significant to happen the next time they argue about the topic

This is also the second time the Blood-Oath is brought up…

  • Again, setting it up

Then Draco mentions the short grass and the loose dirt while inexplicably sitting down.

  • This signals some sort of plan, inviting the reader to try and figure out what the plan might be
  • This is foreshadowing self-contained within the chapter

And the answer is… the horses show up.

  • And guess, what? It’s now the second time you’ve seen the horses in this story.
  • This gives the reader a chance to figure out Draco’s plan
  • BUT… again, it’s only the second time they’ve shown up. So should it work? No.

And I made it so it wouldn’t work, not because of Draco’s ineptitude, but because of Miguel not listening to directions. WHICH I set up throughout the chapter – another self-contained pay-off.

  • First, when he questioned Draco.
  • Then when he tried to stand.
  • And, finally, when he broke orders and ruined the plan; the third moment of disobedience in the chapter which significantly altered the trajectory of the story

And, finally, we have both Miguel’s incredible knife skills and Claiming of the horse.

  • Both have been shown and hinted at enough times that they are believable when they happen in the Chapter.
  • If this was the first time either had been mentioned, it would have come from nowhere and been unsatisfying or unbelievable.

Overall:

Be intentional

Rule of Three

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