Sunday, May 3, 2009

Great Foreshadowing - Movie Style




Analyzing movies can help you build a better novel!
WARNING – Spoil Alert – I will tell you what the movie is about.

Saturday evenings are movie night in my family. This past year, I noticed there was a lot to learn about character development, plot, dialogue, show-don’t-tell, emotion, and conflict within these films. I couldn’t help but analyze those I thought did it well and decided to share my findings with you.

Last week, we watched Appaloosa, a western in which Ed Harris starred, directed, produced, and co-scripted. The all-star cast included:

Ed Harris as Marshal Virgil Cole
Viggo Mortensen as Deputy Everett Hitch
Jeremy Irons as Murderer Randall Bragg and
Renee Zellweger as Widow Allie French

I considered this a well-written “buddy film,” based on the novel by Robert B. Parker. It shows (instead of telling) the deep friendship between two men. It also reveals how to foreshadow events.

Deputy Hitch narrates the introduction to the story. He tells the audience he had been working with Marshal Cole in his peace-keeping business for over a dozen years and had no reason to doubt they would be together for the foreseeable future. Then he points out, “The unforeseeable is what your life becomes.” Great line! How many times have we looked back on our lives and realized we could have never predicted the changes that occurred?

The introduction is the one time we are “told” what the story is about. From that moment on, the writers allow the characters to foreshadow the events that lead to the eventual separation of these two friends.

Throughout the story, the writers weave in details to show how close these two men have become. I believe their relationship was closer than most male/female relationships I’ve seen. The way they take care of each other’s emotional needs, in a manly way, is touching. The marshal makes sure he introduces his deputy to anyone who enters the scene. When the marshal doesn’t remember an uncommon word, the deputy waits until asked to provide it. The deputy knows the marshal well enough to anticipate his needs and is there providing the proper item or backup at the right moment. At one point, the deputy holds the marshal back when he is beating up on a man who shot off his mouth at him. He took his time letting go when the marshal told him to and we could tell he was making sure the situation was under control. When the marshal’s girlfriend kisses him, he refuses to tell his friend. If you look for these moments, you’ll catch a least a dozen, all of which show their close bond. We need to include moments like these in our romance novels as well. We need to SHOW the characters falling in love and being there for one another.

While the tight bond is shown to the viewer, we also see the signs foreshadowing their eventual breakup. The following are the ones that stood out to me. I’m sure there are more I missed.

Sign #1 - We see the deputy stop and watch the marshal kissing Allie, the widow who recently arrived in town. He slowly walks away.

Sign #2 - Allie tells the deputy her and the marshal are buying a house in town.

Sign #3 - The deputy innocently jokes around about the marshal going to see Allie and he is quick to defend her.

Sign #4 - A colleague of the marshal is surprised to see him with a new type of woman. He watches them with obvious interest. This sign shows us their world is changing in a big way.

Sign #5 - The marshal watches Allie sleep for a moment, despite her recent betrayal of him, showing his deep feelings for her.
Sign #6 - The deputy helps the marshal realize Allie does love him. He puts his friend’s emotional needs above his own. I couldn’t help but think of how many people would have used the opportunity to keep them apart so they wouldn’t lose their friend. Too often, our own fears keep us from reaching out to others.

After this point, the characters make it obvious that one will end up leaving and one staying. You’ll need to watch the movie to see how it all plays out.

Overall, I was impressed with the number of signs foreshadowing the eventual end of the story. I think most of us should strive to include more foreshadowing in our own stories.

Until next week,
Happy Writing!
Tina LaVon


Lisa Logan said...

I love foreshadowing in films and do tend to pick up on small hints here and there.

In my own writing, I'm amazed to see how much foreshadowing winds up in a story that I'm "pantsing" and have no clue where it's headed. Maybe part of my muse knows what's coming, and drops little hints to me. I don't know. Either way, readers have commented on them, as though I was so clever to drop these carefully planned morsels. Little do they know I'm often just as surprised as they are to see how threads of my story tie together!


Tina LaVon said...

I've heard a theory that our subconscience already has this story all planned out and often times at the end we see how all the puzzles pieces fit together. Interesting concept.

Donna Hatch said...

That's a great reminder about how to show and not tell! I also agree with Lisa in that foreshadowing sometimes happens subconsciously. In my book 'The Stranger She Married' I had to go back and add a little in, but most happened organically. And then once a reader commented on my clever foreshadowing at a particular part that I never caught, even during final edits. Kinda crazy!