Lessons Learned #19

First Impressions and Foreshadowing

This week I started reading ‘The Screenwriter’s Bible (6th edition),’ by David Trottier, which was recommended to me by a fellow screenwriter from the US. I only got to page 20 but I learned two things already; the importance of first impressions and foreshadowing.


First Impressions

The first important thing I learned was to ‘make a good first  impression.‘  Trottier says that not only does it need to ‘hook’ your audience, it also implies something about your story. This was of particular interest to me as I am planning to re-write my first novel. The first seventy pages in my book are just information; introductions, backgrounds, scene setting. Nothing exciting happens in those pages and I think a lot of readers abandon my book before the real action starts as nothing seems to happen. So I had already decided that I had to start my story further in the book, where the real action actually does happen (or soon thereafter). I will just have to weave the beginning of my original story as back-flashes into it (I know, easier said than done).

But, according to Trottier, not only do I need to hook the audience in those first pages, the first impression also needs to imply something about my story. I had to think twice about these words. What could I imply in the first pages? It is a romance, but I could hardly start at the first ‘kiss’ as this was halfway down my book. Then I realised that the whole book is a race. And as soon as I figured this out, where exactly to start my story? At first I was thinking to start it in the bar, when my protagonist and friends decide to flee the oncoming threat of suckers (vampire-like humans). It is where the first ‘movement’ of my protagonist starts. But the bar has (in this story) no significance, they don’t get back to the bar nor get together in another bar anywhere else in the story. I decided to start the story with my protagonist at home, packing for the move. Her home is a key point in the story; she starts there and will come back there. Starting with her packing for a trip will give the reader immediately the implication that this is a story with action/movement, even the implication of suspense, as when you are fleeing there is the immediate question of whether the protagonist will succeed to get away from whatever she is feeing from. This will definitely help ‘hooking’ my readers.



The second thing I learned was the notion of ‘foreshadowing.’ Foreshadowing is the warning or indication of a future event. It’s not exactly the opposite of a back-flash, but a see-through image of it, if you get my drift. I often find myself ticked-off by the Miss Marple stories where the solution of a murder is often solved by knowledge that only comes to light at the very end of the story and there is no way on earth you could have known about it or thought it up. Foreshadowing prevents this. It gives you hints that something is of relevance. Or at least that this item/occurrence/knowledge will be returning later in the story. You read it, your mind acknowledges it, and perhaps even tells you it is important, but the story continues and you forget it. Until you get to the part where it surfaces again and you go ‘I knew that was going to happen!’ even though deep down you have to admit to yourself that you had forgotten about it and it came as a real surprise. The book gives the example of the gadgets Q hands out to James Bond. You just know that these gadgets are going to come in handy, but you have no clue when. And nobody needs jam trousers (as per Eddy Izzard’s suggestion – Lego version on You Tube), so something is only mentioned if it is of relevance. I actually used foreshadowing in my second book (Raising A Vampire) without knowing about foreshadowing. Let me know if you found it after you read it 🙂 .

Have a Happy Writing Weekend!



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