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seeing the future

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How about examples of books where someone can see/knows that something bad will happen in the future, and is trying to avoid this/stop this from happening?

Also, how does suspense work in such a case?

Keith
#1 - June 17, 2011, 09:28 AM
Keith McGowan, www.keithbooks.com

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I'd say suspense generally comes from how you, the author, handle the visions/prophecies/whatever. I think it's vital to set up some kind of "catch". Think of Cassandra, for example, cursed to tell the future but never be believed. Like any magical power, knowing-the-future has to have its capacities and limits. Here are a few examples -

a] the future being a changeable thing, so a vision/prophecy may NOT be showing an inescapable future - but how do you know you're working to escape it, not fulfill it?
b] or conversely to the above, you could get suspense from visions/prophecies ALWAYS being true, and all paths will lead to it: much angst and suspense there!
c] visions being incomplete, confusing, misinterpreted - so many ways to play with this to cause havoc for your characters
d] self-fullfilling prophecies - once you KNOW about it, you can't ever escape it

Those are quite general but you could also think up lots of more specific rules, like the person who sees the future can't ever speak about it, or she dreams the future but thinks they're ONLY dreams so says nothing, or prophesying is a crime punishable by death, or ...

Examples ... hmm. Diana Wynne Jones's POWER OF THREE is in a world where one of various magical gifts floating around is the ability to tell the future. She does nice twisty things with it. The Harry Potter books have prophecies. Actually, there must be a LOT of other YA fantasy with prophecies - I am just failing to think up any examples right now.
#2 - June 17, 2011, 10:57 AM

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A recent one that comes to my mind is THE MARK by Jen Nadol. The main character can see a glow around somebody not long before they die. There's a sense of dread as she goes about her day, afraid of when she'll next see the "mark." There are a couple of instances where she intervenes to save somebody, but she eventually questions whether she should. (http://bigfoot-reads.blogspot.com/2010/09/two-ya-book-reviews-by-penny-c-monster.html)

I think one way suspense can work in a story like this is if the character knows the bad thing is going to happen, but doesn't know how or when.
#3 - June 17, 2011, 11:02 AM
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I haven't read this one so I don't know for sure if it's what you're looking for but I think Kim Harrington's CLARITY is about a girl who sees visions, which I'm assuming are about the future...
#4 - June 17, 2011, 11:30 AM

RL

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How about examples of books where someone can see/knows that something bad will happen in the future, and is trying to avoid this/stop this from happening?

Also, how does suspense work in such a case?


The suspense will come from the reader wondering if the protagonist will be able to keep the horrible thing from happening or not. The steps he takes to prevent it, then the way he is blocked or thwarted, then the new thing he tries, but is thwarted again--all that  frantic work toward preventing The Awful Thing will build a huge amount of tension and suspense.

Part of the suspense will also come from how you as a writer set up the known future. Is it a prophecy, where the prophecies always come true? Or as Emily said, it it only one possible future? Or perhaps there is even a twisty way to make that awful thing come to pass and the reader discovers it is actually a good thing, in the context of what has happened over the course of the book.

Unfortunately, I am drawing a complete blank on books that do this. Hm, maybe Lirael by Garth Nix.
#5 - June 17, 2011, 11:39 AM

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Also, I think the level of suspense would be affected by what’s at stake. What does it mean to the character personally if the bad thing can’t be avoided?
#6 - June 17, 2011, 11:42 AM
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http://bigfoot-reads.blogspot.com/

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http://www.dogdarecritiques.com

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Not children's books, but it would be worth checking how the masters did it - Macbeth and Oedipus Rex
#7 - June 17, 2011, 03:17 PM
I've Got a Tail! - Amicus Ink 2020

www.juliemurphybooks.com

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Hi All,

Thanks for the great suggestions and comments, folks always come up with great stuff here. And the library here in Vienna even has Garth Nix and Wynne Jones books in English! Definitely got some research to do. This one was just beating me for some reason (as if it were the only thing :  ). A big shout out too to Robin, thanks for the comments. Love your blog!
#8 - June 19, 2011, 04:53 AM
Keith McGowan, www.keithbooks.com

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Oh yes, and I think Macbeth and Rex are really good ideas, sometimes I forget these things . . .
#9 - June 19, 2011, 04:54 AM
Keith McGowan, www.keithbooks.com

RL

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Hi All,
 A big shout out too to Robin, thanks for the comments. Love your blog!

Thanks, Keith!

And I completely forgotten that we share an illustrator!
#10 - June 21, 2011, 06:32 PM

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Yep, I find it all very interesting. At the risk of totally digressing, I see she's got a new picture book coming out, Two Cats I think it's called. Yoko loves cats!
#11 - June 23, 2011, 11:24 AM
Keith McGowan, www.keithbooks.com

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My fourth book, Touched, is all about this. Not coming out until 2012, but the guy has this curse where every little thing he does changes the future, so he sees a bunch of iterations of the future and he can't tell which one is truly going to come to pass. Also, he only sees certain details from the future, not enough to tell the whole story, so he often can not prevent bad things from happening. Also, he can only see his OWN future, so he can not help others. I agree with Emily that you can impose whatever limits you want on the power to create suspense.
#12 - June 23, 2011, 11:35 AM

In my MS, the protag is not supposed to be able to see the future: it's abnormal, monstrous, presumptuous in a girl. She faces gruesome punishments if she reveals her power...but people could die if she doesn't share what she knows.....

...but I want what Cyn has: can't wait to see how your guy juggles all the futures!! :lurk:
#13 - June 24, 2011, 12:17 PM

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Wow, what's great about this board is I can ask a question like this and one of the many great answers is from an author who's literally written the manuscript! That's great, Cyn.

I think it's interesting the idea that on the one hand there is a story in a person trying to change a future they know they can't change, and on the other hand with an open sci-fi kind of mind seeing the future doesn't need to be limiting at all. Thanks again to all.
#14 - June 29, 2011, 08:52 AM
Keith McGowan, www.keithbooks.com

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Voldemort and the prophecy.

Also, in a completely different way, WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead.
#15 - July 05, 2011, 09:10 AM

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