RERUN WEEK #2: Start your novel at least three chapters before the first significant event of the plot

Alan picked up his slice of toast and bit into it thoughtfully. The crescent shape left by his teeth was like a smaller version of the shark bite Julia would suffer next week, but at the moment, Alan knew nothing about that. Wiping the crumbs from the corner of his mouth, he reached for his coffee. As he lifted the mug, the surface of the drink rippled like a deceptively calm ocean which, any moment now, sharks would come leaping out of. He slurped it, completely unaware.
So far, today had been disappointing. The arrival of the post hadn’t brought the parcel he’d been waiting for – the new scuba mask with anti-fog coating which would eventually (although not for some days) save his life. There wasn’t even a postcard from Julia, despite her still, at this point, having enough fingers to write one. He wanted to know what the weather was like out on the west coast before he set off to join her there on Thursday.
Of course, today was Monday, so there was still plenty of time. Maybe a postcard would come tomorrow, or the day after. Until then, reflected Alan, he just had to get through his last few days at work, which promised to be mind-numbingly repetitive and predictable, exactly unlike a shark attack.


  1. "Exactly unlike" is a great expression. So lucid, yet so useless.

  2. Also, "Use ominous foreshadowing early and often."

  3. Two examples occur to me: "A Wrinkle in Time" may have averted this, but only having two short chapters before the kids are off on their adventure. Then "Back to the Future" had to use perhaps twenty minutes of film time to set up Marty's situation, before sending him back in time.

    I've always thought both were well done.

  4. Stephen King likes to think he's doing that foreshadowing thing, but he doesn't realize how much he destroys the mood he is trying to set. He'll be setting up a very pleasant sunny-day atmosphere, and long before the event actually occurs, he'll tell you what disaster awaits.

    Not an exact quote from a particular story or anything, but it might go something like: "Marjorie beamed with satisfaction at her lovely garden. The tomatoes were already coming in early, the snap beans were likely to come in a bumper crop, and Lord-a-mercy, would you look at the cucumbers! She leaned against her hoe - the same hoe she would use later that week to hack the limbs from her husband's lifeless body - and let out a rare, contented sigh." Well thanks, Stephen, you've just given away the next two or three chapters. How about I just skip to the end and save myself the trouble?

    It would be much more effective if he did a callback from the horrific to the pleasant. Something like: "Marjorie set about the task of dismembering her dear, sweet Ed with a feral determination. The simple garden implement she had used for no purpose more sinister than to protect her snap beans from stray crabgrass a mere three days ago, she now swung with a crazed malice at Ed's left shoulder."

    Okay, I'm no writer, but you get what I'm saying.