Foreshadowing is a literary device where a writer drops hints early on in the story as to what will happen later. Foreshadowing is also known as Chekov’s Gun as he wrote in several letters: ‘If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.’ When clever writers use foreshadowing, it is to build tension and is interwoven seamlessly into the narrative. It’s only upon reflection after the book is finished that the foreshadowing can be discerned.
There are different types of foreshadowing. Flash-forwarding moves the reader forward, down the timeline of the story, giving a clear picture of what is coming such as in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. This of course can be played with and events may not turn out exactly as indicated – think of The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol.
Another type of foreshadowing which intentionally misleads is the use of what is termed a Red Herring, where a deliberately laid clue deceives the reader into assuming the wrong conclusion. Hounds of the Baskervilles as well as The Da Vinci Code both use this technique. Crime novels and mysteries are naturally fertile ground for adding an extra layer of intrigue.
Having a character make a prediction is another way to foreshadow events. This method has been used from ancient Greek times (Oedipus) right up to to the present (Dom DeLillo's White Noise). Making use of signs/omens to forecast events is also a type of foreshadowing. Such signs, such as crows etc., can be quite symbolic.
Generally foreshadowing is figured out when the major events of your story have been planned because these are the ones you want to highlight. You then set about deciding the details of exactly how you are going to introduce foreshadowing. NB: foreshadowing should never give away the ending!
My favourite use of foreshadowing is in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Does anybody else have any favourites?
I can hardly believe it but my novel is with my two beta readers (go beta readers go! And no, I’m not sucking up.). So I’m breathing out while girding my loins (now there’s metaphor for you – must be left over from the Middle Ages where a knight with ungirded loins was in dire peril) for the feedback.
I was taught to give feedback using a method known as the crap sandwich i.e. you say something positive, hit them with the mean stuff, then finish up with another positive. Giving encouragement allows people to take on board what you’re saying with grace; it also softens their defense reflexes allowing the criticism to be heard.
What to do while I wait for feedback is a new question for me. And one I'm enjoying. I've been so absorbed in writing the current book that mulling over which project to move off the back burner next is proving to be a great motivator.
penguin business men
huddle with heads together –
eat hot paninis
This is from my book Gold Dragon Haiku which is available as an ebook at the Amazon Kindle Store and will be on a free promotion from June 7th - 11th.
Here’s a link for anybody wanting to learn more about foreshadowing:
Join me on my T journey
And to all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.
This is so interesting. Ok this maybe a really dumb question, please kept in mind I am a beginner! I think of myself as in kindergarten when it comes to writing!You start a story with a dream that takes place in another time. The woman having the dream at some point believes she is the young girl in the dream and the dream is telling her what could be if she is not careful or she doesn't believe in dreams. Is this a form a foreshadowing, I never heard the word before. Always learn something new from you! :)ReplyDelete
It's usually foreshadowing if it's hinting at what's going to happen. If it doesn't happen, it could be a red herring or superfluous information. Both are also great ways to keep readers guessing at what you're going to do.Delete
I absolutely love foreshadowing. My new novella is filled with it. Heck, it practically screams the twist from the get go. But most aren't going to get it. And writing those sort of moments are the most invigorating thing for me as a writer.ReplyDelete