Sunday, 10 April 2016

Finding Clues
Tom's delight at finding his first ever 'geocache'!
There was no blog post from me last week. Our grandsons stayed on for an extended holiday after Easter and we spent a week out and about in the lovely weather. One of the things we did was go geocaching in the nearby woods. 
'Geocaching is an activity or pastime in which an item, or a container holding a number of items, is hidden at a particular location for GPS users to find by means of coordinates posted on the Internet.'
I've always loved Treasure Hunts. I have fond childhood memories of ones organised by the local Motor Club with my parents, but geocaching was a completely new activity for me. We just needed to upload the free App on the phone, remember to take a pen, don our wellies and we were away. Ten year old Thomas was in charge of the phone and we had a great time following the directions through the trees. It took a long time. We looked at the map again and again, knowing we were in the right spot, and re-read the clues. But we found nothing. We met another family who'd given up. Perhaps, the box had been removed? But Tom wouldn't give in. "It's only 2 metres away," he said. Bingo! It was still there and we'd found our first geocache thanks to one young boy's resilience. We duly signed our names with the date and returned the box to its hiding place. Here is a link to find out more about geocaching:

Day 2 Isaac found this one.
We're hooked on it now. We went to another forest the next day and found those clues more easily. Geocaches may be found anywhere in the world.

Later in the week, we looked for more clues in the form of a family favourite board-game. The boys were particularly good at finding 'Who dunnit' when we played 'Cluedo'. They ticked off the rooms , weapons and characters until they came up with the name of the murderer. 

The house was quiet when they left and I got back to some writing. Thinking back over the week made me consider how writers drop clues in their writing. Crime writers do this all the time. But what about other genres of writing? 

My story The Curse of the Turquoise Pool is included in the recently published anthology by Swansea's Writing Circle. In it, I drop clues about the identity of the young girl, Mari. Rhys notices some things that are strange about the girl and they only make sense by the end of the story. 
Garage 54 and others

Dropping clues is sometimes called foreshadowing. If you drop too many hints, the reader may lose interest, having anticipated the scene or action before it happens. Too few, and the reader will wonder where on earth that action, feeling or event has come from. A very concise explanation of foreshadowing appears on Cassandra Clare's Blog where she recommends dialogue as one of the best ways to drop clues. 'A casually dropped comment by a character, a mention of an anecdote that seems related to something else, all those can be used to foreshadow and drop clues.'

Another useful blog post on foreshadowing is this one by Connie Dunn. She likens successful clue-dropping to the 'breadcrumb effect' when tiny crumbs of information are dropped leaving a trail of hints throughout the story. They help the readers follow the thread of the story and keep turning the pages.

My novel is almost ready to go to my first Beta reader and I'm nervous. Very nervous. What if she doesn't want to keep turning the pages? Have I dropped enough clues? Are there parts that don't tie up? Teresa is an avid reader of a wide range of genres and I've asked her to be totally honest. I'd like her to tell me if and where she found her interest wandering, if there enough suspense, whether what happened rings true. And lots of other things... Wish me luck!

Have you any tips for dropping clues to keep a reader turning the pages?
What do you ask of a Beta reader? 

Thank you for reading the blog. I'd love it if you'd leave a comment. Thank you. :-)

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  1. What a lovely thing to do with your Grandsons, Jan! I love treasure hunt type things, will look into Geocaching - thanks for the link :)
    Foreshadowing is sometimes a tricky thing to get right, I struggle with making things too obvious, so will look at the other blog links you've included. Good luck with sending your novel to your first beta reader - exciting times!

    1. Thanks, Sam. I'm quite nervous but excited at the same time. Thanks for popping by to leave a comment.

  2. Dropping enough clues so the reader doesn't feel cheated, but not so many we give away the ending is a tricky balance.

    1. Yes, Patsy, that's what I'm finding. It's hard to be objective about the balance when you know the full story, isn't it? That's why I'm hoping my friend, Teresa, will be able to tell me honestly if I've got it right. Thanks for commenting

  3. I've heard of geocaching, but you are the first person I've known who has actually had a go at it. It sounds huge fun. What a lovely activity to enjoy with your grandsons.

    Foreshadowing is so important. Without it, a reader will feel cheated. Good foreshadowing gives the reader an, "Ah yes, I remember" moment when the reveal happens and there is a sense of things falling into place. Without foreshadowing, a reader can be left feeling cheated.

    I hope Teresa enjoys your novel. The most important thing she can do for you is to be honest.

    1. I hope so, Sue, and that she'll have a few 'Ah, I remember' moments. I so agree with you about being honest. I've told her I want her to tell me as it is. That's why I'm biting my nails! Thanks for your comments.