24 July 2017

Planting Seeds

When you're writing a story, especially a novel, you probably don't want to give everything away right at the beginning. Some details are better when you save them for later. But how do you get there? Do you drop hints along the way? How do you build up to revealing something? 

I've noticed this concept coming up quite a bit while I'm editing my novel, particularly with my subplots. I've always called this method "planting seeds," as in, I'm planting just the start of an idea that will be in full bloom later on in the novel (that analogy works, right?). Sometimes I worry, though, if this actually works. By the time that idea is in full bloom, does the reader care anymore? 

Example time! One of my subplots in UL involves Jordan's friends, Brian and Eric. Every time we see them, it's brought up how Eric has a crush on a girl, but he never says who she is. At first, it may seem like this is useless information, especially when there are much bigger things going on in the main plot. But later on in the book, who this girl is and how she factors into the story are much more important. She's not so important early on in the book, but when she actually does show up, I'm hoping that it's not so random because I've been hinting at her all along. 

I've done something similar when it comes to certain character details. Maybe one character doesn't want to reveal something about himself, but since the idea has been brought up, eventually it has to be explored. Or, another example, there's a certain detail about Jordan's mother that he keeps secret from the reader, but later on in the book, he's forced to reveal it to another character. I've tried to drop hints up until this point but really spent a long time avoiding it (but on purpose!). When it's finally revealed, we can look back and think, oh that's what he was talking about! 

Basically what I'm trying to accomplish is to just have a moment where the reader should think, "oh, ok, this will definitely come up again later!" Even if it's not necessarily important to the plot right at that moment. But my hope is that planting these seeds will make the moments later on where the idea is actually relevant not so out of nowhere. Hopefully the reader will believe it because they at least knew something was going to happen. 

The thing I worry about is whether the reader will notice or even care when these hints are dropped. Or maybe when the real idea is revealed, they'll think back on all of those hints that went over their heads. 

Do you plant seeds early on in your stories?


  1. I love when I'm reading a book, and I pick up on something, and then see it turn into a major reveal or plot twist later on in the book. I feel like a detective! ;)

  2. Planting seeds is fun. I try to do it in my stories, and I definitely do it throughout my series. ;)

  3. I do love books where tiny seeds grow. Sometimes my pantser muse will surprise me with how she manages to do it, but there have been stories where I go back after the first draft and add in the seeds I need to nurture.

  4. I'm kind of on the fence about that, both as a reader and as a writer. As a reader, I got soured on it by reading Robert Jordan (14 novel series which each book some 800 pages). He would introduce those seeds and they would vanish for most of the book, only to reappear as a teaser at the end before disappearing again. As a writer, I try to introduce and flesh out the seed ideas within the same chapter, then periodically refer to it throughout the rest of the story.

    I Are Writer!

  5. I really like the idea of planting seeds. I love when I'm reading a book and something is revealed and I have an "aha" moment when I realize that's what the character meant earlier on in the book.

  6. I have a story I'm trying to do that in too. My main character's real identity is a secret at the beginning, but I hope through certain hints readers will be guessing and finally know if they were right or not when it's finally revealed.