Two popular techniques for moving through time are flashback and foreshadowing. Usually, a flashback is a specific character's memory. The character or the narrator might recount the memory, which may be written as a scene. Foreshadowing is a technique that suggests events that occur in the story before they happen. In "The Monkey's Paw," the father's impulsive, "fatal" move in chess foreshadows his decision to use the paw, to disastrous ends. Other aspects of the story are foreshadowed, as well. As the story begins, the father experiences a sudden anguish about being isolated when he expects that their guest won't arrive. That anguish foreshadows his permanent isolation at the story's end.
From the chapter on characters, you have probably considered aspects of your character's primary desire. That desire is the catalyst for your story's tension, as we've discussed.
1. Write a few paragraphs to a page that outline a scene in which your character experiences some kind of conflict, either with herself or with others.
2. Now write an opening paragraph for the same story that somehow foreshadows the scene you just outlined. Consider "The Monkey's Paw" and "Araby." You may want to use the technique Jacobs employs. Use specific adjectives or actions that suggest what occurs later. Or, like Joyce, let the opening be a contextualization of the story in which the mood suggests the story's direction.
Stories can be framed with a beginning and ending set in the present, with the majority of the story taking place in the past. Usually, these frame stories are told through a narrator who is remembering events or from the perspective of a certain character. The story might begin with the narrator in his present circumstances explaining how he came to be there. The narrative unfolds from a specific moment in the past to end with the present explained. This is a common technique in crime and detective fiction.
Stephen King's "The Body," which was adapted for the film "Stand by Me," is an example of a frame story in which the main character, a writer, recalls a summer from his childhood. At the story's end, we are returned to the present-day writer. Alternatively, Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is framed with the moment of the main character's execution. The body of the story, rather than a memory, is a fantasy of his escape.
Using yourself or one of your characters, create a frame story using the steps below.
1. Identify the frame. You could write from the present moment, returning to an incident from your childhood or your character's childhood, as King does in "The Body," or you could choose a different type of frame, as Bierce does.
2. Freewrite for five minutes about the character's present circumstance.
3. Freewrite for ten minutes about the story that occurs outside of the frame, whether as memory or fantasy.
4. Read through steps two and three. Identify the connective tissue that binds the present to the time of the story.
5. Make a list of these necessary connections. For example, if the present-day character is a peace activist, what about the past he is remembering suggests that possibility for his future? Whether or not you spell out these connections in your final story, it is helpful to identify them.
6. Write the story.
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