Fitting in the bits: Foreshadowing

Heracles fighting the Nemean Lion. Silver miss...
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When I was twelve I began studying Latin.  After we progressed a way beyond Britannia insula est we labored through the labors of Hercules.  Hercules in his travels always had the right tool for the job along with him.  Rope ladder?  No problem.  Got it right here.  Sort of a precursor to MacGyver.

Modern readers expect more subtlety.  Character traits and physical props that turn the story need to be planted way ahead in the story before the plot turn.  Martin Cruz Smith has a plot turn on lactose intolerance in Three Stations.  (Partial spoiler alert.)  The food allergy is mentioned as an aside very early in the story.  Arkady Renko (one of my favorite protagonists) remembers at the time of an attempted murder.

So, how do you plant those surprises early on?  Bury them along with other details in a list.  Make them an aside in dialogue.  And, most importantly, when you are plotting your story structure, be certain to introduce them early in the story, long before they make the plot turn.  Use your 3×5 cards and storyboard, your spreadsheet, or whatever structure tools you use to make certain they are introduced far from the time of their significance.  Otherwise your readers will feel cheated.  Readers and audiences do not like the appearance of happenstance.

Keep writing.

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