Following the Cookie Crumbs

I have finally finished my planning for Betwixt and am now entering my favorite part of this journey – writing the first draft!

It is so fun to get absorbed in the story. I find myself thinking about it throughout the day, writing constant notes as I go – ways to improve a scene, or a line of dialogue that will set something up for a future scene.

That’s what I want to talk about today. The set-up.

It’s really important that when readers get to a big revelation in the story it’s not coming out of nowhere. There has to be some sort of subtle set-up earlier in the book so that when it all comes together, the reader can think, “Oh yeah! That does make sense.”

Now I’m not saying confuse readers and I’m not saying give everything away. I’m suggesting that when you write, you drop cookie crumbs along the way. Little lines of dialogue or tid-bits of information that will come into play later.

This is sometimes easier said than done. There is a fine line between making a story too predictable and also sending your readers on a wild goose chase.

Subtlety is your friend. You know your story. You know where it’s going and how it will end. Because your understand each of your characters’ motivations, it should hopefully flow naturally into the text. The way they react to things, little things they say or do. You can also drop clues into your scenery. There might be a small object or a quick glance at something of great importance later in the story.

Now, I do believe there are places in a story that you really do need to shock your reader. You do sometimes want them thinking, “Whoa, I never saw that coming!” But even then, they should be able to look back and find some minute detail that makes the surprise work.

I have so much fun with this. I love leaving cookie crumbs, knowing my readers will be subconsciously gathering them. Hopefully when they get to the end of the story, they’ll have that satisfied feeling you get when you devour a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie!

So what do you think?

How important are pre-clues in a book?

As a reader do you like them? Do you even notice them?

As a writer, do you find it comes naturally or do you really have to think about where these little clues go?

Author: Melissa Pearl

Melissa Pearl is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and author of multiple novels spanning a variety of genres, from YA fantasy and paranormal to romantic suspense, including award-winning novel, BETWIXT. For more on Melissa, visit her blog or her Amazon author page.

8 thoughts on “Following the Cookie Crumbs”

  1. Great post idea, Melissa. Sometimes I remember to drop the crumbs as I write, and sometimes I have to backtrack.

    As a reader, I always feel like a dolt when I miss clues along the way. (Which is why I don’t often read mysteries, I think — I’m too apt to miss the clues for the story.)

  2. I’m a big fan of subtle clues that give the reader that “oh, yeah” moment, making them think back to those inconspicuous crumbs they have unwittingly been gathering as they read. This is much better than the blindsiding “what the *&@#” moment or the “yep, thought so” moments from too little or too much foreshadowing.

    As long as you are subtle enough, it is still possible to surprise your reader…kind of like giving them a nice glass of milk to wash down that freshly baked cookie :).

  3. Wow, we’ve found a planner! I was impressed by your opening line, “I’ve finally finished my planning …”

    So many writers are pantsers, they just start writing whatever comes out and it leads them wherever they want to go. I’m not saying that’s wrong, I just can’t do that, I’ll never know when I’m done.

    Great analogy with the cookie crumbs, that’s my kind of book!

    1. I’m an inbetweener of sorts. I have to have my beginning, end, and major plot points dotting the way in between, but find myself easily seduced down side paths throughout the process.

    2. I used to be a panster, but I’m finding that planning is giving me a better story. The proof was in the pudding when I heard from editor and she said Betwixt was such a tight story, it only needed a line edit 🙂

      In saying that, I respect that everyone works differently and some people find that planning squashes their creativity.

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