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9/1/2011 4:58:35 PM
Threads...My Strange Addiction?
I have to admit it, I'm into threads. I think they're just yummy. I'm also into foreshadowing and reverse foreshadowing too, but threads are my all-time favorite. The threads most people are familiar with (whether they realize it or not) are those in TV sitcoms and movies.
A thread doesn't have to be a brand-new thought or idea. It can even be a common thought, phrase or cliche. It's the way it's worked into the story that makes it fun. A thread can give that exra texture to a comedy or lend a few light-hearted moments to a more serious romance or drama. And it's awesome if a thread has a "knot" at the end where it culminates in an especially cool line or a romantic moment.
You may remember in the movie Eat, Pray, Love, how recently-divorced Liz is annoyed because people throughout her travels--from Italy to Bali--keep telling her she needs a man. It's a very minor thing in the film, until the moment she's complaining about it to her hot Brazilian love interest Felipe, and he replies (in his sexy accent), "You don't need a man. You need a champion." And we stop breathing for a moment.
Hope Floats, starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr. had some very dramatic moments, but also very funny and romantic ones provided by a few threads. Newly separated Birdee has had to move back in with her mother after being crushed and humiliated on a talk show, when her best friend reveals she's been sleeping with Birdee's husband. (Birdee thought she was just there for a makeover.) Here's my favorite thread: The folks back in her home town keep bringing up her TV appearance as if the excitement of her being on TV made them oblivious to the pain she suffered, saying things like, "We taped it," or "We have satellite, so we got to watch it twice."
Finally, even Justin (her new hot cowboy love interest) comments on how good she looked on TV. She asks which part he liked best. Was it the part where she looked downtrodden and pitiful or the part where she looked stricken and grotesque?
He answers, "I preferred the part where you looked available." (What a great finish to a thread!)
I tend to have lots of threads "sewn" into my stories, although they are never planned from the beginning. I'm a panster (meaning I only know the basics of the plot when I start writing) and the threads just occur as I'm writing, then later in the book, there seems to be another perfect place for that thread and sometimes it continues throughout the story.
In Not Dreaming of You, one of my favorites is the "axe-murderer" thread, where Kiki keeps getting told by her cousin Chris and the reporter Mark that these dating service guys could be axe-murders, but she insists there's no such thing nowadays. After Mark seduces her the first time, then she throws him out, he's caught and confronted by her protective cousin Chris right outside her bedroom door.
When Chris yells to Kiki, asking her if she's okay, Mark says, "Did you think I was an axe-murderer?" And Kiki can't resist yelling through the door, "There are no axe-murderers!" despite the fact that she's mortified by the embarrassing situation, and Chris and Mark are in the middle of a testosterone show-down.
I also grew to love Mark while writing the story because of his relationship with his dog Jack. Mark relates to Jack better than he does people, and his internal monologue became much funnier and more lovable because of it. At one point, he fails to pull Jack off Kiki right away (even though Jack's pushed her down to the floor and is licking her face and ears) because Mark is enjoying living vicariously through his dog.
But stories are more than threads, I suppose. After I wrote both Don't Make Me Make You Brownies and Mia Like Crazy, I realized I'd foreshadowed (and reverse foreshadowed) all over the place. When a story is written from the heroine's point-of-view instead of two POVs, it's important to drop crumbs throughout the story for your readers to follow, so they know there is more to be learned about the hero.
At the end of Don't Make Me Make You Brownies, Abbie learns several things she didn't know about Rick and how everything between them came to pass. But there are hints dropped about his final revelations throughout the story, starting the second time she encounters him (aka "the lawnmower scene") onward.
In Mia Like Crazy (coming soon), Drew is a dark, brooding hero who has shut himself away from others as much as possible. I wanted the reader to piece him together gradually, along with Mia. The more pieces to the puzzle Mia gathers, the more intriguing and compelling Drew becomes.
I'm not sure where all these little tidbits come from sometimes, but threads and foreshadowing are often my favorite parts of a story, whether I'm reading it, watching it or writing it. Maybe it stems from the fact that some of my earliest favorite books were mysteries, like Agatha Christie books and romances with a gothic feel, like Jane Eyre. I love to "gather crumbs" and piece them together or wait for the final, fun knot in the thread.
Why don't I write mysteries? Well I never say "never," but so far I haven't been able to resist turning everything into something funny, so if you see a mystery from me, it will probably be a tongue-in-cheek humorous one.
In fact, I do have this crazy idea...but it will have to wait until I get some of the other books out there.
Do you have a favorite thread from a movie or book? Or am I the only one who records them in my brain as "threads"? (I never know which things are normal to remember, since I have an entire jukebox in my head full of old TV show themes and commercial jingles.)