A Major Shock

Last night I watched my favorite show, House.

And about had a stroke.

The writers killed off a major character in a way that made no sense. I've read the interviews and I understand that they took artistic license by not foreshadowing this event. They were doing what they felt was best for the story and most challenging for the character of House. I can understand this. But what they did was very risky because it had the potential to alienate the audience.

This is where the art of foreshadowing comes in. Done right, this technique won't five away the future of the story, but when a twist comes, it will give the past scenes sense and will keep the twist from completely shocking the reader.

I really wish the writers would have foreshadowed this death, even if only to the audience.

Do you use foreshadowing? Or do you prefer to shock your reader?


Kristen Painter said…
You just watched that? Wasn't that one like two weeks ago?

Yes, I like to shock my readers, but I don't think I've ever pulled off anything that big.
Lady Glamis said…
I like to shock the reader... but I don't like to tick them off. I think it's a fine balance between the two. Most readers prefer to be delighted and entertained, not shocked and annoyed. Since House isn't horror, I would think that some foreshadowing was probably necessary. I hate shock value just for the sake of shock value.

So is this going to alienate you from the show?
Jessica said…
Hey Kristen,
I don't have TV shows, so I watch it on the internet. I just saw it, though at least I was prepared because I saw an article about it like a week ago. I'm still annoyed though.
I can't wait to read one of your books!
anita said…
Hey Jessie! I like to foreshadow in my books. It's so fun if you can pull it off right, because those little hints you drop can be construed as many different things, until the reader gets to the epiphany moment and then they're like, "Ohhhhh! Right!"

Makes the reader feel smarter for at least catching the hints, even if they didn't link them together right. And then they have a whole new respect for the writer, instead of being mad at the writer and feeling cheated.

So yeah, foreshadowing all the way here.

Are you going to keep watching House? I used to LOVE to watch Ghost Whisperer with my daughter then they pulled this REALLY LAME twist to wrap up last season, and it tasted so bitter to me as a writer (lack of foreshadowing and an obvious ruse to instill some conflict and tension into a loving relationship that didn't need it), that me and my daughter both were furious and DONE. We never watch it anymore. It's risky when writers pull stunts like that. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
Jessica said…
Hi Lady Glamis,
I think it was necessary too, even if only a hint of Kutner's frame of mind.
No, it won't keep me from watching. :-) I have faith that the writers will be using this event in future shows. I'll bet the truth will come out sooner or later.
I don't mind being shocked, so long as I can look back and see where I missed subtle clues. Oh well.
Windsong said…
I like to drop hints along the way so the reader knows what's coming, but I like to reserve a twist or two that surprises them when they get there.
Nancy J. Parra said…
I think you have to foreshadow or the book will be flung across the room and against the wall- :)

Without foreshadowing you rob the reader of a comfort zone of "knowing."

Great insight and yeah, I hated that episode.
T. Anne said…
I like some foreshadowing, but I guess a surprise once in a while could be a 'nice' jarring experience. That sort of thing usually isn't done in my genre's I could see it in suspense or mystery.
Jessica said…
Hi Anita,
Wow, so you actually stopped. That's interesting to me. No, I probably won't stop with House. This wasn't so much contrived as it was a shock. I do hope the show doesn't end up like Grey's though with all the relationship stuff going on.
I'm exactly with you on the pulling the foreshadowing off right. You do want the twist to be a surprise, but then after thought you want the reader to say, This makes sense.
Jessica said…
Hi Windsong,
I love twists. Nothing is more boring than a predictable story.
Jessica said…
Nancy, that's so true about the comfort zone. Great way to put it.
Jessica said…
Hi T. Anne,
I like surprises too. I think if the foreshadowing is done right, you don't even know it's there until the big surprise, and then looking back things begin to stand out.
But you write literary, right? I know absolutely nothing about that genre, except it produces a lot of tearjerkers. :-)
Hi Jess -

I like some indication that a major change is coming. When I get invested in a character, and the author/screenwriter axes them without warning, I want to bail out.

Susan :)
Jessica said…
LOL Susan. I love the verbs. :-) Def. true. This is why I stay away from certain genres. It's just too hard for me to get connected to a character who ends up gone.
Angela said…
I know! When I watched it I was all, What the HECK? but then the next day all that stuff came out about the actor leaving the show to work for the White House and it all made sense.

I love to foreshadow. If there wasn't a good reason for this character's TV show death on HOUSE in RL, this one would not have gone over well with fans IMO because he was well liked and this was so completely unexpected.
jdpetroinc said…
Jessie, I have no idea which character so don't tell us until we see that episode. What a bummer. I like shock, but sometimes I do like foreshadowing. If the shock is a favorite character I get upset and may want to "strike" against that show or author etc... Maybe not for forever but for a time. An avid readers opinion. Love Mom
I think some things can be shock value, but others need the forshadowing to suspend disbelief or just plain hysteria from your reader/viewer. You really have to back pedal a lot if you shock with the wrong thing, and you better have a faithful following to keep reading on for the reasoning.

That's my 2 very tired cents worth.
Cindy said…
With something that drastic, I like to foreshadow. But on lots of other things, I like to surprise people.
P.S. I nominated your for an award. Come visit the post at www.cindyrwilson.blogspot.com/2009/04/lemonade-stand-award.html
Jessica said…
You're probably right. Since I knew the actor was leaving, I knew he probably had to die. But they could've made it an accident. I think the writers did what was best for the story and for House, just not what was best for the audience. I guess it's a fine line.
Jessica said…
Yay mom! You got an account. Are you going to start your own blog? That would be cool, esp. with pics of where you travel or fun stories.

I'm glad I didn't mention the character. I think you'll be shocked.
Jessica said…
Hi Eileen,
Had a busy weekend? :-) I'm a very faithful follower, so it would have to take a lot for me to stop watching. But look what happened with Anita. Also, my grandma watched a soap for over twenty years but stopped when the soap crossed one of her definite moral boundaries.
Jessica said…
Hi Cindy,
I just wanted a tiny hint. Anything so I could look back and say it made sense. Grrrrr...

Alright, I'm hopping over. Thank you for the award! :-)
Jody Hedlund said…
I love to foreshadow! I love it in books I read too. In fact, I've talked about foreshadowing so much that my daughter came to me today and told me she just noticed foreshadowing in one of the books she was reading! I was so excited that a nine year old was able to recognize it!
jessie said…
Yes, foreshadowing. I like to read it. I like to write it. Surprises are only fine if they answer questions that you have already been asking throughout the book.
Jessica said…
LOL That is too cute! Good for you, giving her a strong literary education at a young age. :-)
Jessica said…
Hey Jessie,
Nice way of putting it. I love that last line and think you should put it in quotes and copyright it. :-)
Terri Tiffany said…
Wow-- I had to double check the date of the post as I watched that one weeks ago and was mad cause there was no foreshadowing at all! We thought he really died in real life at first and they had to do it fast!
I like the reader to start to wonder some--that is the building part!
Jessica said…
Hey Terri,
Yeah, I watched it when I posted on the internet. GRrrr..! Then I read in the interviews that the writers/directors didn't want foreshadowing. They wanted House to not have any answers. I get that, but it stinks for us.
Dara said…
I like slight foreshadowing; if things come across as a shock, I tend to have to put the book down for awhile before I come back to it.

And from what I know of the episode (I stopped watching House awhile ago; I lost interest...) it seems like there were no signs that that was going to happen. It just seems a little, well, random. But I understand why the writers had to do it.
Jessica said…
It definitely was random but I'm hoping they'll straighten things out in the future.
You lost interest??? Eek!
I'm trying to think of a book that this has happened with, but I usually stick to "safe" literature so I haven't been shocked very often. I think if a book did it, I'd be like you with having to put it down for a bit.
Jaime said…
I think I'm wierd. I love shock value and loved the way they brought about Kutner's demise. But, if they did that to Jack Bauer in 24 I would have to go Bauer on someone and inact my own vigilante justice. LOL
How funny you wrote about this because my husband and I just watched the episode before the one where Kutner dies, and we were totally expecting some sort of foreshadowing or hint that it was coming - but there was nada. The actual ep. where he dies is still waiting on the DVR, and now I am more curious than ever to watch it.

I try to use foreshadowing before major events, but not so much as to give it away. It's a thin line, I think, between something working and just feel like a gimmick meant to be shocking.
Jennifer Shirk said…
I like a little shock in books and TV shows but not major disturbing shock. They should have foreshadowed a little something. :(
Jessica said…
LOL Jaime. You're not weird. It's true that stuff like that can happen in real life, but in a show it was unexpected.
I've never seen 24 but I have seen Sutherland at my dad's bar. :-)
Jessica said…
Hi Kate,
It's a good episode. Very sad. It's not really a gimmick, because this was the best possible move to challenge House and really throw him on his head. Let me know what you think!
Jessica said…
Hi Jennifer,
I think they could've foreshadowed something to the audience without involving House. Sigh. Let's just hope they make the whole thing worth it. :-)
Dara said…
LOL, yes I have. It must have happened when I had a few weeks of shows that I missed for whatever reason, and I found I didn't miss it all that much. :P I think the only show I watch now is The Office, and even those I have to watch online because they come on when I'm at critique group.
It turned me off - I didnt see the episode, so when they re-ran it on some other channel, I skipped it...I don't like it when a book or movie or show "tricks" the audience for what I may perceive as cheap shock value - and, to boot, I liked that character, which made it all the more a questionable move in my humble opinion.....it soured the show a bit for me, I admit. But, I don't like suicide shows, I admit that too.

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