Writing Tips – Hiding in Plain Sight

A couple summers ago, we went blackberry picking. Er, well I should say I was the “camera toter” and “bug spray applier”, not the “blackberry picker” in this adventure.

Along the way, we had to pass a few uninterested bystanders. They were a bit white-faced that we had the audacity to invade their territory, but hey, I was a bit white-faced, too.

Ah, the fresh smell of cow patties… Phew!

Much fun was had and tons of blackberries were picked, despite the prickles! Before an ominous thunderstorm rolled in, I snapped some fun photos. And of course, being the one behind the camera, I never seem to be in any photos.

Well, unless they turn out like this. :roll:

There really is a writing lesson buried in this text, promise.

Many writer friends and I have talked about the unconscious muse phenom. What we’re talking about is when we’re working on a current book and down the road we discover that some innocuous item we’d added much earlier in the story–just to give some authenticity or because we wanted to further flesh out a setting–turned out to be pivotal in the storyline later. HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN!?! And even though it has happened often enough to lead me to believe my own muse sometimes runs in the background in my subconscious, there is a lesson to be picked up here. One that I can consciously implement into my stories and so can you!

There’s an expression in the screenwriting world called “Laying the Pipe” (er, I believe I have the correct expression (someone correct me if I’m misquoting it), and NO, it’s not that meaning. Git yer minds outta the gutter :lol: ). The basic gist behind this idea is that as the story unfolds you want to plant items early in the storyline that will have an impact on your story later, but you do this by integrating those items in such a way that the viewer/reader doesn’t KNOW you’re planting them. It’s done this way so that later on in the storyline when it’s important that your audience “recalls” the small item they missed before and how it relates to the big reveal now, then they’ll nod their heads and say, Oh, yeah, I get it now. 

So, what does blackberry picking have to do with this fun writing tip above? Check out that first photo again. What do you see?

Do you see the praying mantis? If you saw it the first time, good for you! This insect’s body is MADE for camouflage. He was there all along, hiding in plain sight. That’s what you’re doing with your story. When you layer little items in so that they are a seamless part of the story, give them more of a reason for being there than just to support a reveal later. How do you do that? One way is to make them a true integral part of the character or storyline. Like Nara teaching herself Latin in BRIGHTEST KIND OF DARKNESS. Um, if you don’t know how that ties into this writing tip, hopefully it’ll click with you if you read Nara and Ethan’s story.  8)