4. Forewarnings.

Forewarnings are the counterpart to requirements. While requirements show that the story is progressing towards the achievement of the goal, forewarnings are events that show the consequence is getting closer. Forewarnings make the reader anxious that the consequence will occur before the protagonist can succeed.

In the plot outline for our story, events that could constitute Forewarnings might be…

  • the company loses one of its key employees to another firm that was more family-friendly.
  • the protagonist has a series of bad dates that make it seem like she will never find the right guy.
  • the protagonist meets a woman at a singles club who tells her that at their age all the good men are already married.
  • one of the protagonist’s friends goes through a messy divorce, showing that marriage may not be the source of happiness it’s purported to be.

While the Story Goal and Consequences create dramatic tension, Requirements and Forewarnings take the reader through an emotional roller coaster that oscillates between hope and fear. There will be places in the plot where it seems the protagonist is making progress, and others where it seems that everything is going wrong. Structure these well, and you will keep your reader turning pages non-stop.

For example, here’s how our plot outline might look so far …

“A female executive in her late 30s has been married to her job. But she has a wake-up call when her elderly, spinster aunt dies alone and neglected (consequence). The executive decides that she needs to have a family before she suffers the same fate (goal). In order to do this, she hires a dating service and arranges to go on several dates (requirements). But each date ends in disaster (forewarnings).”

As you can see, using just these four elements, a story plot is starting to emerge that will take the reader on a series of emotional twists and turns. And we’re only halfway through our 8 plot elements! (Of course, we started with the four most important ones.)

Notice too that these elements come in pairs that balance each other. This is an important secret for creating tension and momentum in your plot.

Before moving on to the remaining elements, list some possible events that could serve as Forewarnings in your story. For now, just choose one. See if you can create a brief plot outline like the example above using just the first four elements.

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