As the Talyn Turns

By Holly Lisle

So she takes the prospective lover, the good-looking outlander who loves her for her mind, home to meet the folks — she’s not even admitting to herself he’s really, truly a prospective lover, because he isn’t Tonk and if you want to stay Tonk, you marry Tonk. (But maybe you can sleep around outside the culture and still stay in its good graces, so long as you don’t have kids or get too public about the whole thing.)

And the prospective lover asks dumb questions at the meal and embarrasses her, but is really sweet to her kid brother, whom she loves more than anything.

And …

There is so much I can’t tell you. So much wickedness going on beneath the surface, so many bad things happening just at the corner of the eye, starting to creep into view, starting to slide up from the cold, clear depths like the Kracken awakened, first little tentacles slithering across the corner of the screen, down at the bottom, look left and look fast or … dammit, you missed it. But I swear it was there.

Foreshadowing can be such a casual thing. It can be Bill drinking a beer on a Thursday night, it can be Jane looking thoughtfully at the sealed wrapper of a deck of poker cards, it can be a quick kiss on the cheek. And I think, done well, it will be just the shadow of a tiny cloud breezing for an instant across the grass, no swelling music, no reaction shots of the players, none of that soap opera stuff where the character delivers the line and then the camera goes to a long, loving shot of the listener hidden on the other side of the door, scowling and arching an eyebrow.

Good forshadowing is like good joke-telling. Do it with a deadpan delivery, utterly straight of face and with total sincerity. Believe in your heart that the story everyone sees is the real story, that there is no punch line — and then, when you deliver the punch line, you will have the satisfaction of seeing Pepsi spew out of one listener’s nose while another one pees her pants.

And that, my friend, is what it’s all about.

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