One of the things I love most about a good book is piecing together the clues to unravel the plot. Regardless of genre, all stories will have some secrets to uncover, who the villain is, or what the heroine is hiding from the hero. The author will usually provide some foreshadowing to hint at the truth. Or hint at what isn’t true but looks like it could be. I love red herrings and misinformation, both as a writer and a reader.
When I reach the end of a book and find out that the villain wasn’t who I thought, it’s a great feeling. I love it when an author can surprise me. Harlan Coben is magnificent at adding twists at the last minute. But when I think back through the book I’ll usually see the clues that were so subtle I missed them.
Some secrets are hidden from the characters, but shown to the readers. Sometimes the characters know something but they don’t share it with the readers until later. It all works for me as long as the author takes me on an exciting journey.
In some cases, an author won’t know who the villain is until near the end of the story. I usually know who my villain is before I start the book. It’s so much easier to layer in the foreshadowing if I know early on. If I don’t know, or if I change my mind, then I have to go back and drop clues.
But even though I know the villain’s identity, there are always last minute twists that pop out at me as I’m writing. Maybe something from the character’s past that will surprise me. So I can’t avoid going back to add things in.
With Guardians of Stone, the book I've just finished, I ran into the same issues. I thought I knew it all, but as I neared the end, more twists occurred. It’s hard work making all the pieces fit together smoothly. I’m always curious how other writers handle foreshadowing.
Do you put in subtle hints or heavier ones? Start layering them early in the story or later? Do you usually know who your villain is and what your characters’ secrets are, or do they surprise you?