by Steve Hooley
I enjoy browsing the archives of the Kill Zone Blog from time to time. There are many posts hiding here that contain a wealth of wisdom and good advice and are worth rereading.
Recently, I was looking for articles on foreshadowing and found buried treasure in a post by Jodie Renner from January, 2014. I had glanced at several discussions of foreshadowing and found that Jodie’s article was concise, well organized, and perfect for our discussion today.
Since it has been eight years, I thought it was worth revisiting and using for today’s discussion. So, nuggets of wisdom from the past (the archives) and a discussion on ways we can set up the narrative for the future
I have summarized the article below, but the original article is well worth rereading.
Fire Up Your Fiction with Foreshadowing
Keep your reader curious and worried, and keep them turning pages.
“Foreshadowing is about sprinkling in subtle little hints and clues…about possible revelations, complications, and trouble to come.”
Uses and Purposes:
- To lay the ground work for future tension
- To reveal character traits, flaws, phobias, weaknesses, and secrets to increase reader engagement
- To add credibility and continuity to your plot so that changes and events are more believable
- Show a pre-scene or mini-example of what happens in a big way later
- Protagonist hears conversation or gossip that doesn’t make sense until later
- Hint at secrets or memories your protagonist has been hiding and trying to forget
- The news warns of possible danger
- The main character notices other character’s unusual or suspicious actions, reactions, tone of voice, facial expressions, or body language
- Show protagonist’s inner fears and suspicions
- Use setting details and word choices to create an ominous mood
- Protagonist or someone close has disturbing dream or premonition
- Fortune teller or horoscope foretells trouble
- Make the ordinary seem ominous or plant something out of place
- Use objects a character ignores while they are looking for something else
- Use symbolism
No author intrusion giving an aside to the reader
- Non-outliners – write the story then add the foreshadowing
- Use like a strong spice – not too much, not too little
- Operative word is subtle
Hopefully Jodie will be able to stop by today, say hello, answer some questions in the comments, and add any additional points or tips she’s acquired since 2014.
By the way, a thorough discussion on foreshadowing is found in Jodie’s book, Writing a Killer Thriller, an Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction.
Questions and Discussion
- What are your favorite techniques for foreshadowing?
- In your favorite books, what techniques for foreshadowing have been most likely to create (in you) anticipation or foreboding?
- What other techniques for foreshadowing can you think of?
- What other uses for foreshadowing can you think of?