Monday, July 21, 2014

Film Writes: Foreshadowing ... Or Deus Ex Machina?

WARNING: The following post contains plot spoilers from the movie Frozen.

Has anybody ever read a book and been completely surprised by the revelation at the end?

Think Naked Once More by Elizabeth Peters, in which a woman vanishes before the novel even begins. All the way through, speculations fly about her whereabouts. The revelation at the end, though, caught me entirely off-guard.

Sometimes it’s good to be surprised. If the story was predictable, no one would care. And a surprise can mean that the author did a fantastic job making the foreshadowing an organic part of the story.

Ever read a novel — or, for that matter, watched a movie — when the ending caught you so off-guard that you wanted to call a foul?

That can be an instance of less than effective foreshadowing.

For Instance

In Disney’s Frozen, the villain role sort of (ambiguously) belongs to several people — Elsa, for freezing Arendelle, and the duke of Weselton for planning to exploit the kingdom. (In a side note, the duke’s minions are more sidekick material than outright villains.)

Personally, I never saw Prince Hans coming.

The only indication I had that he might have an agenda was his reference to being the youngest of thirteen (!) brothers, and spending his childhood largely ignored.

When he turned up as the arch-villain masterminding the sisters’ downfall, I was floored.

So What?

If you don’t mind being caught entirely by surprise, you were probably fine with the revelation.

On the other hand, without much foreshadowing, or much more obvious and organic foreshadowing as part of the story line, Hans kind of felt like a deus ex machina device … no less a villain, but less fulfilling.


How might the writers/creators of Frozen done more to foreshadow Hans’s true character? Looking at your own, WIP, do you have the right balance between not too much and not too little foreshadowing?

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