Ok, I have a confession to make.
I watch entertainment shows. Not sitcoms (well, those too–hello Wednesday nights on ABC, I’m looking at you), but the type of shows that are the television version of the magazines you see during checkout in the grocery store.
Do these types of shows suck the smart right out of my brain? Yes.
BUT, they are also fantastic at foreshadowing!
Recall, before I became a full-time mommy I used to work for a CBS affiliate as a television commercial writer/producer and the station promotion director. (A seriously cool job by the way, but I digress.) Our station once had someone come in to talk to our department about effective ways to write the news teases–the little five to ten second news promos that come on half an hour before the evening news. The purpose of these is to entice the viewer into watching the newscast for one specific story, and hopefully they’ll end up watching the entire show.
An example: “Fast moving wildfires threaten a small town in (insert your home state here) Details at eleven.”
Or, “Waterskiing squirrel stolen from the (insert your county name)County Fair. Find out PETA’s ransom demands tonight at eleven.”
You hear these little snippets and you can bet you’re staying on the channel after your sitcom/drama ends. These teases left a lot of unanswered questions that only can be answered by watching the upcoming newscast!
Anyway…our station brought in some bigwig who had lots of tricks up his sleeve, but his biggest advice? Watch Entertainment Tonight!
At first, our entire department thought he was nuts, but then we figured out he was right. They spend the first full minute teasing upcoming stories, giving a little information here, sprinkling in a few quotes from movie stars there. Then, before they go to the first commercial break, they tease what’s coming up for the rest of the show. Back from commercial and repeat.
So, what can a writer learn from this? Effective foreshadowing requires careful selection of tidbits of information, then placing that information in such a way that it keeps the reader engaged. Then, once a particular storyline is resolved, you’d better already have the reader wanting more from other snippets you’ve inserted.
There you have it, a writing lesson from Entertainment Tonight. Who woulda thought?
Happy Monday everybody!