Wow. Was anyone else blow away with the first episode of Constantine? I went into the episode a little cautious, dealing with demons and devils and all that jazz can be a little daggy or unrealistic so I wasn’t sure what I’d be walking into. I can say I was pleasantly taken on a nail biting journey, and as a new writer I’ve noticed a few tips that I can use in my own novel to help me keep my readers on the edge of their seat. I’ll try not to give away too many spoilers.
Foreshadowing to create tension
As the masters of foreshadowing, nothing seemed unreal or contrived. Foreshadowing rings the warning bell in the back of your mind telling you that something is on its way so be on the look out. Here are a few examples:
- The possession at the start in the insane asylum – Constantine followed a bunch of gross cockroaches amalgamating towards the unholy site.
- The glowing light bulb signifying the approach of the demon,
- The blood scrying showing an unnamed bad thing was going to happen in the future
- The fortune cookie with a blank fortune – she had no future.
Novel writing tip: If you have a big action event coming up in your book, thing of a way you can foreshadow it a few scenes in advance.
Every ounce of footage was used to further the plot
There was not a second or word wasted on unnecessary information – if the writers wanted to get the scenery across, characterisation or exposition, they made it relevant to the story. For example:
- Constantine’s struggle over his past failure was weaved into the current day plot. Even at the start while he was trying to face his demon’s (excuse the pun) at the asylum, he stumbled across the inciting incident – the demon possession.
- The subplot over his damned soul was told alongside the main plot and strategically entwined throughout to compliment the action and serve as an appropriate sequel. (Sequels are the downtime to the action scene – the reader needs these to give their brain a mental break. It can’t be all action, so make those sequels count)
Novel writing tip: Go back over your writing and find a lengthy scene of description or exposition, delete it and rewrite the information into the action part of the scene or make it relevant straight after.
There was a scene where the body bag in the back of an ambulance starts bouncing around and the driver stops to check. Guess where he stops? Not on an abandoned road with nothing to look at, but in a graffiti riddled tunnel. The pictures on the wall show screaming faces, so when the demon possessed corpse attacks and the camera can’t show the graphic content, the scary pictures further the emotional rollercoaster ride for the viewer without actually going into too much detail. Classic case of 2+2 instead of 4. Make the audience work for it. Don’t give them the answer and they’ll go away resonating your message on a deeper level.
Novel writing tip: Do you have a graphic horror scene in your novel? Reign back some of the detail, and replace it with a complimenting external visual devices – a contrasting detail might be even better, think an axe murder butchering a person inside a room, but next door an artist is listening to music, painting a volcano erupting with red paint splattering everywhere, then the brush snaps.
Some of these techniques are easy to convert to novel writing, but some aren’t so obvious. I hope it’s given you some food for thought anyway.
Do you have any great shows or movies that have taught you a lesson in writing?