How to write slow paced exploration and effective foreshadowing

A story i’ve started working on is going to have an emphasis on exploration. So the player will slowly accumulate lore entries and items over the chapters.

But since it has a lot of slice of life vibes to it the items and lore pieces the player picks up on the way won’t begin to coalesce until much later.
Its a fantasy story so there’s going to be plenty of lore information. As well as character subplots, of course.

I don’t want it to feel like the main plot is dragging, or as if the story suddenly grew a mainplot half-way through.

Any advice on how to keep slow paced stories engaging? As well as advice on effective foreshadowing?

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As someone who is kind of in love with foreshadowing, this is my very short advice:

Don’t.

And by that, I mean write a story that doesn’t rely on foreshadowing. You need a story to stand on it’s own after chapter one, and every chapter needs to be engaging and moving forward. This means that in essence, you need two plots: Immediate and the Long Game.

The immediate plot is what makes the character move forward now. It’s the reason for going from point A to point B, and get involved with person C or conflict D. This is what the player will engage and have fun with.

The Long Game is just there. Clues are planted, weird shit happens, but it’s all in the background. Towards the end, this will start adding up and astute players will spot it before others. The trick is weaving this into the story, and accept the fact that a fair subset of players won’t remember or add things up. So the rest of the book needs to work for them regardless.

How to do this is very hard to describe without knowing the details, but here are a few things I learned while writing Fallen Hero (who has a few… hmm… layers).

1: Be honest in the text. Always write the truth, if you do it right, people won’t connect the dots anyway, but once things are revealed everything will make sense.

2: Don’t obfuscate, just don’t explain. Is a character weird about a thing? Write that, but don’t linger on it. Remember what the character knows, and write it from their perspective, not the readers.

3: A main character can know things that the reader doesn’t. Sometimes that’s a fun mystery too.

4: Pay attention to your playtesters. If they feel confused, or if things came out of the blue, you need to plant more clues.

5: Never underestimate your readers. Start with no handholding and give them the benefit of the doubt, it’s easier to add more info afterwards.

6: Some players will remember lore better than you. Other players won’t remember anything. You need to cater to them both.

7: Make the book enjoyable regardless of whether the player adds up the clues or not.

Probably more, but dinner is ready so… I might get back to this topic, it’s my favorite kind of story.

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Thank you so much for the advice, this is very useful!

Just want to say I usually hate this. It’s extremely difficult to do well. Often it just ends up feeling like fourth wall breaking, where the MC is actually talking to you about the story. (Of course not everyone has a problem with fourth wall breaking. But even actual fourth wall breaking can be done well or horribly.) The exception would be if it’s knowledge that the MC legitimately doesn’t feel is relevant at the moment because of their own lack of knowledge of the full picture.

…what if the MC thinks it’s not relevant to the situation, because it really is not?

Then it probably doesn’t come up in the story at all so I don’t even notice it’s missing.

I don’t care if the MC knows he has an Aunt Carol living in Missouri if the game is set in Oregon and Carol never comes up.