This is a theoretical experiment of sorts, before you roll your eyes at such nonsense. I had this idea brewing in my head for a while, after reading Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, and McDonald's The Golden Theme. The idea of foreshadowing took on a new aspect for me: it seemed what Steinbeck did wasn't so much foreshadowing as it was writing and rewriting and rewriting the same scene of a man losing his companion. Why? To get his point across. What was his point? The theme of his book: People need companionship. And why would he repeat it? To drill it into the readers' heads. Why? Well, because we're stubborn and learn best by repetition.
Now, I'm exaggerating and generalizing a little here. Not every novel is exactly 60 scenes, but it's a good round number and it's roughly how many scenes books have. Open a novel and count (I counted mine today, and TUBE came to 58 scenes). If you apply one single scene to all major plot-point scenes—I use the Hero's Journey terminology so for me it's Ordinary World, Call, Refusal, Mentor, Crossing, Tests, Approach, Ordeal, Reward, Road Back, Resurrection, and Return (for you it might be Hook, Inciting Incident, Plot Point One, etc.), then also apply it to the scenes leading up to those plot-point scenes (have characters talk about what's about to happen) and leading from them (have characters talk about what happened) you're taking about 60-65% of your book. The rest are connecting scenes that can be faint reflections of that one single scene.
Let me explain where I got this idea from.
If you haven't read Of Mice and Men, don't read further, as I will spoil it for you. Go read it (it will take you an hour or two), then come back. Ready? Okay. Steinbeck dramatizes his theme of people needing companionship by showing us we cannot be without a companion. We need a companion so bad, we'd go with anyone, whoever they are. And our loss of companion is a tragedy. Now, let's see how one single scene of a man losing his companion repeats (I will only cover major scenes, again, since this is a generalization and an experiment, and I don't have the book in front of me, going by memory).
- Lennie kills the mouse. He wanted a companion so bad, he crushes the poor mouse in his hand (though it happened before the book started). Lennie loses his companion.
- George throws mouse away. Again, Lennie loses companion.
- Lennie wants to pet rabbits. Lennie asks George to recite their dream of owning a farm, and again his fear is what? To lose his companions.
- Curley accosts Lennie. This is a direct threat to George to lose his companion.
- Curley's wife shows up. Lennie wants her as his companion, but can't have her. Again, loss of companion, only theoretically.
- Workers ask Candy to kill his dog. Candy's dog stinks and is sick, but he is his companion. Shooting him will make him lose his companion.
- Lennie gets a pup from Slim. Lennie leaves to pet the pup, and so temporarily George loses his companion
- George tells Slim Lennie "petted" a girl. Again, this is a story of Lennie losing a companion.
- Carlson shoots Candy's dog. There you go, Candy loses his companion.
- George, Lennie, and Candy talk about the farm. Candy offers them all money he has, so badly he wants companions.
- Curley fights Lennie, Lennie breaks his hand. Again, this is a threat for George to lose his companion.
- Crooks tells Lennie he'll be shot like a dog. Or something. I don't quite remember how it was said, but I remember it was the same scene again: loss of companion for George.
- Candy, Lennie, and Crooks talk about the farm. The dream of companionship again which we know they will lose.
- Curley's wife tantalizes Lennie. She comes in and she leaves. Lennie can't have her. Lennie loses a companion.
- Crooks opts out of the farm idea. And so Lennie and Candy lose a companion.
- Lennie kills the puppy. This is easy. Loss of companion right there.
- Lennie kills Curley's wife. Presto. Again, loss of companion.
- George kills Lennie. And, here it is. THE SCENE THAT WAS REPEATED NUMEROUS TIMES BEFORE IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. George has lost his companion. But then guess what? He found a new companion in Slim, which the other men who are lonely don't understand. But this one single scene has been repeated over and over and over again since the very beginning.
You see how neatly this ties into a theme? Whatever it is you want to say, you can say with one scene, and then by repeating it you can dramatize it in novel form, redressing the scene however you like, then arriving at an explosive climax because your readers' minds have been so saturated with your theme, they get it on an instinctual level.
I'm going to use this in TUBE. I have decided to try and do this experiment and have every scene a sex scene. Why? The book is about a young woman remembering the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her late father. She finds the key to her repressed memories, a toy train engine, then unlocks compartments on the train, visits her repressed memories, and heals herself. The overall theme is; Face your fear to overcome it. So every character in TUBE has a fear that they overcome or not at the end of the book (note, in Of Mice and Men every character is lonely and is looking for companionship). But because the main character's fear in particular is the fear of intimacy due to the sexual trauma her father inflicted on her as a child, I'm making every scene a sex scene, with two variations: scenes involving trains are violent sex (rape), scenes involving ballet are gentle sex (love). But in every single scene there is an allegory to sex, even if it's just one character poking another one with a finger. This way I will have saturated your mind so much that by the end of the book you will get it and have a catharsis. Or so is my hope. Maybe I'm crazy. This is all wild speculation, of course, as I haven't finished writing TUBE yet.
But do you see the pattern? I haven't seen it before, and now that I do, I see it in my books. I see it everywhere! For example, ROSEHEAD is about a rose garden eating people. And guess what. The book is full of scenes of eating. The guests eat food. The house eats guests. The monster eats the elephant. The room eats blood. The roses eat people. And so on. Again, I'm generalizing, but the metaphorical presence of theme in books hit me so hard I'm seeing stars. I guess even when we don't mean to, we imbue our stories with one point we want to get across by repeating it with slight variations to show it from all possible angles. Still sounds crazy to you? Not so much anymore, right? Rather logical.
In any case, I'll try to apply it to my book writing and report to you the results. One other thing that struck me recently is the novel concept. The "What if...?" question. I have read about it in Larry Brooks's Story Engineering, and it clarified a bunch of things for me. But about this in the next post. This one is getting a bit long.