Friday, June 08, 2012

Character Foreshadowing

Ah, there's so much to discuss when it comes to Star Wars. The intricacies of the plot are amazing. You ever want your mind to be totally blown? Ask a die-hard Star Wars fan to tell you the history of the Wookies. You'll find that every race has a history that goes back hundreds of years, things we never see in the films but that are revealed through the books that spun off from the series. Your eyes will glaze over after the first thirty seconds of explanation, but you'll come away amazed at the depth of character building and world building that have gone into the Star Wars product.

When I saw the first three films of the Star Wars saga (which is confusing, because they weren't really the first three - they were the second three, which came out chronologically after the first three, which in the story line, were really the second three ... um, yeah ...) I was interested to see how Darth Vader came into being. Weren't we all? We start out with a cute little boy who grows into a young man and then turns into Darth Vader. At first, it all seemed really sudden. Okay, it took three movies, but it still seemed really sudden. I wanted more foreshadowing. I wanted more insights into Anakin's head. (Oh, wait - should I have included a spoiler alert? Anakin turns into Darth Vader. Sorry if I ruined that for anyone.) I wanted more.

Then I watched those movies again, and I realized I was wrong. The foreshadowing had been there all the time.

The Phantom Menace - In this first episode, we see Anakin as a young boy. Oh, so cute, with those little cheeks! Right? But as I watched it the second time, I noticed several things. First, no one ever said "no" to him. He was justified in anything he wanted to do. Qui-Gon Jinn was so excited to meet this child possessed of so many awesome midi-chlorians that he let Anakin walk all over him. The child was developing seeds of pride, and no one reined him in.

Attack of the Clones - We see Anakin as a young man, and he's not so cute anymore. (No offense, Hayden Christensen.) He's arrogant and totally full of himself. He knows he's somethin' and isn't afraid to let anyone know it. Obi-wan tries to talk to him about it, but he's not listening. He demands that Padme love him ... and silly girl, she obeys him. Again, he's getting what he wants through fit-throwing, and no one gives him what he really needs - a sharp kick in the patootie. The pride grows and grows. And when he decides to slaughter an entire camp of people, what does Padme say? "You're only human." Um ... humans don't just slaughter entire camps of people, silly girl. There's something seriously wrong with this boy you've chosen.

Revenge of the Sith - And here we have the episode where the final transformation takes place. I won't go too deeply into how much I hate Padme's character in this episode - they took a perfectly self-sufficient woman and turned her into a whiny-helpless-chick when she got pregnant, and sheesh, why didn't she fall for Obi-wan, I 'd like to know - but anyway. Moving on. She's the only person who could have really told Anakin what was what, and she never did. He could slaughter a camp of people - no big. All the kids in the Jedi temple? A little disturbing, but not enough to really make her look at things. Every time his outrageous behavior was validated, he became more and more filled with pride, and that is what the emperor used to control him. He preyed on his pride, the pride that had been building since he was a little boy.

Stepping back and looking at it from this perspective, I can see that the foreshadowing was really perfect. I'm also seeing how an entire lifetime of never being told "no" can be bad for a person. The Jedi council tried to explain to Qui-Gon the consequences of his choice to train Anakin, but Qui-Gon didn't listen. If anyone along the way had really put their foot down, we wouldn't have ended up with Darth Vader. Of course, that would have really stunk for the movies. But you see what I'm saying - that increase of pride throughout the three movies was the foreshadowing we needed to understand how Anakin became Darth Vader.

As authors, we should pay attention to these types of things. We want our characters to live and breathe in the minds of our readers, just like Darth Vader. (And boy, does he ever breathe ... very distinctively.) We need to indicate why they are the way they are. Not necessarily over the course of three movies, but over the course of a few chapters, and to show how they emotionally reacted to the events of their lives to shape the perceptions they have today. This is especially important when someone is making a huge shift in their personalities, like going from Anakin to Darth Vader, but we now know from looking at it that it wasn't such a huge shift at all - he just hadn't found the perfect black cape yet.

Look at your characters. What actions will they be taking that might be confusing to the reader without the benefit of foreshadowing? You don't have to give everything away beforehand, but there should be enough little hints that afterward, the reader can go back and say, "Ah ... I see."

See also:

Writer Tip #22: Foreshadowing

4 comments:

Donna K. Weaver said...

Nice, Tristi. Love your analogy. I never saw that in the Episode 1, but you're absolutely right.

Carolyn Twede Frank said...

Well said. I enjoyed this post.

thanks.

Sarah Dunster said...

I need to go back and rewatch the first three episodes now, because I want to believe. I think we can all agree on one thing, though... JarJar must die.

Foreshadowing almost takes place subconsciously, I think. Sometimes. But you give a good example of how you need to make sure it's there...that the gun that goes off actually did show up in the first act. Also that you don't renege on a hint to the reader. I don't believein red herrings.

Sarah Dunster said...

I need to go back and rewatch the first three episodes now, because I want to believe. I think we can all agree on one thing, though... JarJar must die.

Foreshadowing almost takes place subconsciously, I think. Sometimes. But you give a good example of how you need to make sure it's there...that the gun that goes off actually did show up in the first act. Also that you don't renege on a hint to the reader. I don't believein red herrings.

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