Lately, I’ve been studying the ends and beginnings of novel chapters. To begin a study session, I first must be inspired by something I like, and then notice what I dislike in comparison. I formulate a generic do’s and don’ts list from there, and then I proceed to write about it. This week, I really, really want to point out how authors flow from one chapter to the next.
For starters, I’ll begin with a literary tool called foreshadowing. By definition, the verb foreshadow means to signal that something is going to happen. When used as a writing tool, the author is either using it to progress the plot or to creating anticipation. Quite literally, foreshadowing can be stating that something is going to happen in the next chapter, without hinting to what that is. For example, the end of a chapter can say, “But Billy could not have been prepared for what was coming next.” If the author did not tell us the readers what is coming, then we are just as clueless as Billy. This is exactly a signal that something is going to happen, or a promise that the plot is going to be moving in the next chapter. Total cluelessness can get the heart thumping, for those who love writing suspense novels (hint hint).
Less literally, the author could say, “But Billy could never have guessed what he’d find in the closet.” This is a signal that something is going to happen, but it also hints to what that is, which in this case is Billy opening the closet and then reacting to what he finds. This gets the brain moving, and depending on the circumstance, can also get the heart racing. But usually the reader is, or trying to, deduct what is in the closet, adding their own emotions besides suspense caused by what they think is going to happen, such as fright, sadness, excitement; it’s like a reader’s DIY emotional roller coaster.
Foreshadowing always comes before something in which the reader does not know yet. If the book jumps back and forth between times, one cannot use foreshadowing to speak of a future, when in the previous chapter the event already happened and the reader is all-knowing, the characters are not. You’re explains in a foreshadow way what the reader already knows. That’s a form of creative recap, but we’ll get back to that later.
Mostly, foreshadowing is placed before something happens. It could be seconds before, or years before the event. Foreshadowing chapter-wise, the event it’s referring to could be placed directly at the start of the next chapter, which would be considered a fast-paced novel, or it could be put aside until later chapters, letting readers either forget about it or pick up pieces in the meanwhile.
A book doesn’t need heavy foreshadowing if the book is written for a day-to-day, contemporary premise. It’s not meant to be suspenseful. Creative recap, however, is necessary.
Creative recap is reconditioning/rewriting an event in past tense for repetitive emphasis. The importance of repeating yourself, reminding the reader who did what and what happened when, is like playing with flashcards, allowing the readers quick and easy assess to the past when you want them to remember something. Repeating names at the beginning of novels so they start to stick is an example. Though, we do it in a creative way that the reader will enjoy instead of just saying it. Hence why we call it creative recap. Another plus is that it helps connect the chapters through reference, and a general understanding of why each chapter is there builds over time.
An example of creative recap: “While that was happening, this was happening here,” or, “Only five years after this happened, this was happening here.” A simple statement of relationship in the first sentence of each chapter will fill in those holes. As a result, the readers won’t need to think too hard about the distance and time between them. Even if the chapters are almost completely unrelated to one another, it’s still easier for the readers with that connection.
When I mentioned before about some books going out of order, you cannot foreshadow if the reader already knows what’s going to happen. In this situation, “But Billy could never have guessed what he’d find in the closet,” turns into recap since nothing is hidden from the reader anymore. It’s there to repeat the knowledge, for emphasis. For the readers, it’s an instruction to start feeling a certain way, reminding them of what they already felt. It’s creative, because you’re not outwardly saying, “Remember this?” It’s more of a reference, a nudge-nudge, inside joke sort of thing.
Whenever you catch yourself thinking, “How can I make sure the reader picks this detail up,” or, “I haven’t mentioned this in a while, so how should I mention it again,” you’re probably using creative recap. You don’t want to outwardly say it, but you’re thinking hard about a creative way to do it. What ever you wrote as a solution is your prime example of creative recap.
There are many ways to go about creating creative recap, and there are just as many for foreshadowing. Both can be used to your advantage when it comes to repetition, repetition being the key to success. Because both are references technically, using either one will act as a second mentioning besides the actual telling of what will or what has happened. Use them as tools to improve your writing. In particular, use them to help your reader understand what’s going on in your book, unlike the metaphors and detail outfit descriptions in which build the pretty of your novel.
(P.S. Did you see what I did there with the colors? That’s a creative way of reminding you what I was referring to earlier, connecting the paragraphs, and making it easier to follow what I wanted to explain. c; I love creative recap.)
Thanks for reading,
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