Stringing your reader along

I don’t know where it is in this book, but I swear I remember it saying that King Arthur had disappeared. You see, in Ishiguro’s book The Buried Giant, there is a man and his wife traveling to their son’s village. And in the midst of their journey, they encounter a warrior.

“That warrior’s an admirable fellow, didn’t you think so, princess?”

“No doubt,” [Beatrice] replied quietly. “But that was a strange way he had of staring at you, Axl.” (73)

At first, this made me think that this warrior was their long lost son. What irony that would be! But, without the author revealing more, I had to continue, at least until this came up again. This time the warrior, Wistan, was asking another knight to gaze upon Axl’s face.

“I beg you, sir, look at this man beside you and say if you’ve ever seen him in days past.”

Sir Gawain gave a chuckle…But as he gazed into Axl’s face, his expression changed to one of surprise—even shock. Instinctively, Axl turned away, just as the old knight appeared almost to push himself backwards into the tree trunk. (108)

Again! There’s something in Axl’s face that everyone recognizes, which leads me to believe, what would two knights have in common? A king perchance? I don’t even remember if it  King Arthur was missing, or what was his role in the plot, but with this ‘fog’ causing all the people within the land to forget, I have to wonder that if Axl plays a bigger role than we thought, especially with the way he keeps remembering more and more of his warrior-like past.

Then, finally, I get more of a reveal on page 180! Tell me if this isn’t irksome.

“Sir Gawain, were we not comrades once long ago?” [Axl asks.]

“The mist hangs heavily across my past,” Axl said. “Yet lately I find myself reminded of some task, and one of gravity, with which I was once entrusted. Was it a law, a great law to bring all men closer to God? Your presence, and your talk of Arthur stirs long-faded thoughts, Sir Gawain.” (180)

Right now I’m on page 204, trying to find out more but really struggling, not because I don’t like the book, but because I think the constant jumping back and forth between memories has thrown me for a loop. With my skim reading and how subtle Ishiguro’s style is, I miss a lot of the transitions taking me into a character’s memory, and it really pushes me away when I get confused in the layers of action. I’ll have to focus on this later, and discover why it messes with me so much.

Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Buried Giant. New York, NY: Vintage International, 2015. Print.

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A shadow of the imminent future

Foreshadow.

How do you know when it happens? I guess some people call it a sixth sense. Like, when some people can tell that something bad is about to happen because they get this sinking feeling, which you get from experience…like, if you keep hitting the spray can like that, of course, it’s going to break.

I got this feeling while reading, and it wasn’t hard to miss.

A human figure had been watching the fence from the edge of the woods, almost out of sight among the trees and the waist-high undergrowth.

Not a hungry. A hungry wouldn’t hold a branch aside with his hand to maintain a clear line of sight.

A junker, then. A wild man, who never came inside.

And therefore, she reasons, not a threat. (Carey 67)

This seems almost blatantly obvious. I mean, if someone is watching you like a creep, chances are, they’re probably a creep. And there’s no such thing as a good creep, only bad. I mean, at this point in the story, she thinks that she has bigger concerns inside the compound rather than outside. After all, it’s a military base, they’re behind a fence.

But by divining the type of man, and spending time to reason whether or not he will be a probably threat…it’s like inviting fate to punch you in the face. Of course he’s going to turn out to be a problem. Just not the biggest.

I think this is a good lesson on how to write foreshadows. Not necessarily a line-by-line how to, but more of a big picture. To write a foreshadow, your characters need to notice something. They can measure it as a threat or not, but they need to notice, need to spend time thinking on it. This shows the reader that if it’s important enough to mention, it’s important enough to notice and will come back later in time.

Carey, M.R. The Girl With All the Gifts. New York, NY: Orbit, 2014. Print.

Repetition

This sounds weird that repetition is a good thing, and maybe this overlaps with foreshadowing, but I was reading “The Ghosts of Christmas” and I found through each repetition, the author was actually reinforcing the character’s wants and needs, strengths and weaknesses. Through repetition, the author helped construct a more believable story. (Spoiler alert!)

1st: “It’s been proved that certain traits formed by a child’s environment do get passed down to its own children…I’m going to be a terrible parent” (Cornell 37)

In this quote, Cornell establishes that his protagonist belief that she is going to be a terrible parent because that is how she believes her parents were. To re-establish this fact, or repeat it, he transitions to a memory.

2nd: Dad watched football and in response to his daughter’s ‘play with me,’ said “You start, and I’ll join in later.” (38)

Another memory.

3rd: “…and in a moment they’d be bound to notice me…But they went to bed without looking in the lounge. I listened to them close the door and talk for a while, and then switch the light off, and then silence, and so it was just me sitting there, watching the greys flicker.” (38)

Her parents always forgot her. And although they weren’t particularly abusive, they were neglectful, never giving her the attention she deserved. In another memory, he drives home the point of her parents’ neglect.

4th: “I was standing in a lay-by, watching the cars go past, wondering if Mummy and Daddy were going to come back for me this time…I was six years old.” (38)

This was all back to back memories, stressing the protagonist’s concerns that she is going to be a terrible parent because that is how her parents were, which is a familiar feeling for most parents – will we grow to be like our parents?

I really liked this technique, this repetition of memories after her fear in order to stress what kind of parent she thinks she’ll be and in order to develop her history, since the reader can tell early on there is a stressful relationship between her and her parents.

It’s backwards of action, reaction. Sort of a reaction, action, used more for internal reflection rather than external response. I think this technique definitely worked rather well, especially in combination of Cornell’s expert weaving in and out of scenes. Just like the last story “Old Paint,” he did a good job combining mini-scenes to establish this character.

Cornell, Paul. “The Ghosts of Christmas.” Year’s Best SF 18. Ed. David G. Hartwell. New York, NY: Tor, 2013. 34-54. Print.