What Interstellar Teaches Us About Writing Seamless Stories

Recently, I saw Interstellar. I know that the science might not be entirely correct—it is science fiction after all—but I loved how all of the events seemed tight and linear. You could plot everything perfectly. Sometimes, my story has almost an episodic feel to it, jumping from one point to another. I’m going to show you how to write a seamless story with foreshadowing, linear progression, and goals.

If you want your character to escape from prison using a magical key in the climax, you’d better mention that he has possession of a magical key earlier on, or else readers will inevitably feel cheated. Aside from mere set up, I love to see good foreshadowing in a mystery. Finding the breadcrumbs the author scatters throughout the story and trying to piece everything together is always fun. If your events are consistently foreshadowed, your reader will be able to follow the story better than they would otherwise.

Before I continue, I would like to point out that foreshadowing isn’t intended to make a story predictable. It’s supposed to hint at what’s to come. But with great power comes great responsibility. Foreshadowing is a very delicate art. You need to know how to apply it lightly enough so as not to be predictable, but heavily enough that the reader will remember it later on.

Linear Progression
In Interstellar, Cooper meets with his daughter’s teacher to address her behavior. She’s been using “old” textbooks that say the U.S. Apollo missions were real. Instead of punishing her, Cooper says he intends to take her to a baseball game. At the baseball game, there’s a huge dust storm, which leads to Cooper discovering that his daughter’s ghost is real. You can follow each event perfectly. In essence, this is a part of foreshadowing. Foreshadowing covers anything in the story that was mentioned before. By linear progression, I’m referring to short-term foreshadowing.

For example, in my current story, my character attends a dinner party. In the previous chapter, I need to make some sort of mention of that party. It could be just a thought of what she’ll wear that night or being reminded by someone to attend. Depending how big the event is, it’ll need more foreshadowing. If it’s a graduation ceremony, it would need quite a bit more foreshadowing than just a passing thought. This isn’t intended to make the story predictable, but just to give the reader a road map. If you’re an outliner, outline your story and make sure each chapter has some sort of link to the next one.

This is incredibly important. Whether you’re an outliner or a panster, I find that having multiple goals gives your story direction and prevents it from meandering. The first, over-arching goal you want to have, of course, is your story goal. In The Hobbit, it’s reclaiming the Lonely Mountain. In Interstellar, it’s finding a habitable planet to save the people of earth. The story goal guides your entire plot, and it must be presented at the beginning.
The next type of goal is the scene goal. For this, I highly recommend you take a look at the scene-sequel structure. It’s a great way to make sure you have conflict in every chapter, but also that you give the readers enough room to breathe. Every single scene must have a goal. Let’s look back at Interstellar. When Cooper is having a meeting with the teachers, his goal is to get the meeting over with as quickly as possible. At the baseball game, his goal is to reward his daughter, but changes into finding shelter for his family when he sees the dust storm. And if your scene goals follow the scene-sequel format, they won’t seem uncoordinated or random to the reader.

Now you have the tools to write seamless stories. You’ve vanquished the episodic stories one and for all—or have you? Are there any steps I missed? Are there any techniques you find particularly helpful in writing? Are you interested in seeing more posts on writing?

Thank you for reading!

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