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Posted by Jess - - 5 Comments

Confession: I honestly believe Robert Downey, Jr., has the corner on the market for “sexy”—especially when he portrays witty, eccentric characters like Sherlock Holmes.


Where was I? Oh yes. You wanted a blog post. So sorry about all that nonsense.

Anyways, when I went to see the latest Sherlock Holmes movie, A Game of Shadows, it occurred to me that not only is Sherlock smart and witty and so much fun to look at, he can also teach us a thing or two about writing. He is the king of dialogue, knows a little something about suspense, and I don’t think anyone can claim the stakes aren’t high enough. But the thing I think he—or rather, the writers—are best at is effective subtle foreshadowing.

Subtle foreshadowing can be a really tricky thing to accomplish. Sometimes, it’s okay for your foreshadowing to be obvious as it helps develop tension, but subtle foreshadowing can provide your readers with those oh-so-satisfying “I totally did not see that coming!” moments. This is where Sherlock’s writers really excel, and from them, we can learn some easy tricks.

Warning: Spoilers ahead. If you have not yet seen the latest movie, I highly recommend you do so before reading any further. I would really hate to ruin the surprises for you.

  • Make it an isolated event – When Sherlock and crew meet his brother in Switzerland, we see him toying with Mycroft’s personal and private supply of oxygen. Mycroft tells him to quit messing around with the contraption and that’s the last we see of it—or so we think. Later, we find out that that innocuous little contraption is the key to Sherlock’s eventual survival. By limiting Sherlock’s interaction with the oxygen to a grand total of 10 seconds, the writers introduce a moment of foreshadowing without drawing attention to it, and the resolve comes as a complete surprise.
  • Make it a reoccurring event – That’s right, folks, isolating and repeating events can both be a effective tools for foreshadowing. For example, Sherlock Holmes has a habit of “killing” Watson’s adorable bulldog—a habit that is well established in the first movie and carries over into the second. Towards the beginning of A Game of Shadows, Sherlock kills the poor pup and then revives him with a shot of adrenaline. Later, Watson must use the exact same technique to save Sherlock’s life.
  • Hide it in your dialogue – Idioms and turns of phrase can be an excellent way to disguise your foreshadowing. It works so well that I had to see Game of Shadows twice before I caught this one: while introducing Watson to the complexities of the current case, Sherlock tells him, “I will go to my death to solve this case.” Phrases like “I’m going to do _____ if it kills me” are such a normal part of real conversations that the viewer/reader probably won’t even notice the foreshadowing at all. (Another example: Rene’s letter to Sim states, “Remember my face because you’ll never see it again.” Later, we learn that a plastic surgeon had performed an operation that made him look like another man, so she really would never see his face again.)
  • Embed it into your world building – The first time Sherlock meets his nemesis, Professor Moriarty, is when he pays him a visit in his slightly unkempt office at the university. As they talk, Sherlock takes in the room around him: the chalkboard covered in numbers and equations, the books that lay scattered around, Franz Schubert's "Die Forelle" ("The Trout") playing on a phonograph, the box of dead flowers on the windowsill. All of these paint a vivid picture of who Moriarty is on the surface—a man utterly consumed by scholarly and cultural pursuits—but they also hint at his darker secrets. As Sherlock solves the case, the books, the chalkboard, and the dead plants all provide him with essential clues, and Die Forelle returns in a pivotal scene involving a particularly large fishhook.

Master the art of subtle foreshadowing and your readers will be stunned by your genius—and maybe they’ll hang your picture on their wall and spend the day drooling over it.

Not that I would ever do anything like that.

What effective foreshadowing tricks have used in your own writing or seen in books/movies?

And, as promised, here is the badge for FFFFFFFest:

Feel free to spread the word!
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Posted by Jess - - 2 Comments

Welcome to the first BTWP interview of 2012. It's bound to be magic, folks, as today's interview is with a delightful young lady from New Zealand whose story sounds all sorts of fantastic. Please welcome

Rachel Carlyon

What is your earliest writing memory? What did you write about? Did it have a title?

Hmm, my earliest writing memory was probably when I first started school. I believe it was about dinosaurs taking over the world, or something like that. It was written in crayon, and in those beginner books, that has the dashed line in the middle of the lines so kids know how to size letters. I think the title was a generic “What if Dino’s ruled the world?”

When you were 6, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A vet, I had wanted to be vet for a few years. I just LOVE animals, always have, and always will.
If not a vet, then a teacher; I loved my kindy, and primary teachers enough, that they made me want to do the same.

What is the best compliment your writing has ever received?

A teacher from another school was shown one of my short stories, and he thought I was doing level 3 scholarship English, (Year 13) but I was only doing level 2 (year 12) and I’m not/wasn’t  even in extension English. That really made my year. Being in Christchurch, New Zealand, my year had been really rough, what with the earthquakes, sleep deprivation, and site-sharing schools (meaning we missed out on 2hrs a day, 10hrs a week learning time) life was a bit shaky (no pun intended). When I heard that this English teacher thought I was older and better than I thought I was, I was beside myself with joy. My grin was from ear to ear; my math teacher thought I looked quite silly. ;)

Can you tell us a little about your current WIP?

My current story is a novel about a shifter named Aura-lee. She comes from a long line of shape-shifters, in her case Hawks. The title “Cry of the Avians” shows that they are in trouble and need help, which they are crying out for. Not only are they shape-shifters, but magicians as well. When Aura’s best friend, Alex (Shape-shifter wolf) is murdered, and a strange voice emits from the forest, things go downhill for the hawks, serpents, and wolves. Especially when the Emerald princess arrives and requests Aura’s help. Lakita is up to something, but no-one really knows what. Everyone but Aura and her mentors Zitora, Kunzite and Larimar believe her, they think she is up to something. Aura has to travel back with Lakita on horseback to the Crystal Iles, (a four day trek) and finds herself and more danger than she can handle.

Here is what I imagine the blurb on the back cover might say: "It's ugly today. My mind reordered this occurrence in life. It was beautiful but the clouds rolled in and dark memories followed not far behind. Soon a thing must die. And again, I'll be one with the road."

Do you follow a routine when it comes to writing?

Every story has different inspirations, different ideas, and different styles, that having a routine makes no sense to me. Sure planning, then writing, then proofing, then editing, then finalising etc, but other than that, none. But to be honest, I don’t plan, it just comes to me, I don’t remember planning a story, I just write. Think up something, and BAM, a page in under half an hour.

What do you find hardest about writing?

Honestly, finding words to replace “said”. There are many, yes, but you can only use them so many times before they become too repetitive, and sometimes they don’t work. Like “mused” can only work in some situations, Other than that, it’s not knowing when an idea will hit me. I have a notebook and pen with me all the time. Not so I can jot notes, (which is what it was meant for) but I actually start writing in this book, then transfer (re-write) it onto pad paper when I get home.

What is your favorite book (at least currently)?

It would have to be Maria V. Snyder’s “Study Trilogy”  (Poison Study, Fire Study, Magic Study) then  her following trilogy “Glass Trilogy” (Storm Glass, Sea Glass, Spy Glass). They are an extremely great read, with amazing plot lines.

Also Amelia Atwater-Rhodes “Keisha Ra” series is also amazing. P.C. and Kristen Cast’s “House of Night” books are also really great. And can’t forget J.K’s amazing Harry Potter. I really don’t have a favourite ONE book, more many series.

What non-writing hobbies do you like to participate in?

I play archery and squash. I read a lot, always have. Otherwise, it would be hanging out with friends, playing playstation, or singing (not that I’m very good, but that doesn’t stop me) .

If you had $1,000,001, what would you do with the $1?

Honestly, that would all depend on my day. If it was bad, I’d treat myself a Mc Donalds ice-cream. I would donate it to a charity, fighting cancer or something, but more than likely, I’d give it to my younger sister Laura.  

Give us one random fact about yourself.

If I get one book in a series, I have to buy them ALL!!! I end up with way too many. Then I have to buy the DVD’s just to make the set complete.

To learn more about Rachel and her writing, visit her deviantART page, friend her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter at @RachWrite4Life.

If you would be interested in being a BTWP interviewee, send me an email at jestkeptsecret (at) gmail (dot) com.
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Posted by Jess - - 7 Comments

Happy 2012! As of Saturday, I'm one year older, and as of yesterday, so is Jest Kept Secret.

Whoa. A blog by Jess Byam that survived two years? Maybe the world really IS coming to an end...

Just kidding. Maybe.

Either way, 2012 promises to be an exciting year on all fronts. I've got some fun things planned for Jest Kept Secret, including finally coming clean about my love for Robert Downey, Jr. and his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes (so if you haven't seen it yet, go see it before you read that posts. Spoilers may be present), more BTWP interviews, a blog redesign (which should make things load a little quicker--I hear some readers have been having issues with that), and a blogfest in February.

That's right! Mark your calendars for the First Friday in February Flikr Flash Fiction Fest, or FFFFFFFest. 

With a name like that, it's bound to become an annual tradition, don't you think?

The gist of it all is this: on the First Friday in February (the 3rd, though I wish it were the 1st or the 4th or the 5th, as then I could drag out this silly alliteration even further), FFFFFFFesters will visit Flikr.com and explore images from the last seven days. (If this reeks of one of those silly Facebook tag-your-friends deals, never you fear. It is where I found my inspiration for this fffffffest, but it's going to be less painful.) Find an image that really speaks to you (you can hit the refresh button as often as you'd like--none of that "last picture in the second row" nonsense for us) and write a piece of Flash Fiction (500 words or less) inspired by the image. Post your piece on your own blog, and we'll all have a grand old time enjoying each other's writing.

So, what say ye? Are you game for this game of mine? A nifty little blog badge will be coming shortly if you'd like to spread the word. The more, the merrier, right?

And what fun, exciting things do you have planned for 2012?
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