Foreshadowing Techniques and Examples

How to Foreshadow

by Deborah Owen

What is foreshadowing? You read it in every story and see it in every movie, but what is it? With new understanding, you can spot it and learn how to use it effectively in your own work.

Foreshadowing is the art of layering clues to build tension. For example, if a story has a prowler on the loose and there is a scene with an open window in an otherwise locked house, that is foreshadowing.

You can introduce foreshadowing with fortunetellers, séances, and Ouija Boards, or use them in opening lines, settings, dialogue, imagery, poetry, articles, stories, or even advertisements.

You’ve seen stories where a man is about to stab a woman in the shower. The act of a hand holding a knife and reaching for the shower curtain is foreshadowing. Or how about the drum beating, heart throbbing fin of Jaws? The horror genre has built morbidity on this technique big time, and it would seem thousands of followers love to nibble their nails into the quick.

In my story, There’s the Someone I Will Kill, a teenage girl suffers a breakup with her boyfriend. Home alone, she takes Mom’s Valium, drinks Dad’s Vodka, and then finds her father’s gun. The scene is set for something crazy.

First she plans to kill her boyfriend, but decides to win him back; however, the murderess rage won’t stop until she sets out to kill… someone. Drunk and doped, she carries the gun in her pocket and walks the aisles of a local store, looking for an old, sick, or handicapped person who would surely rather die than live in their present condition.

As she scans one candidate after another, my readers won’t raid their refrigerator until that scene has finished.

Now, let’s look at the foreshadowing in these scenes:

  • The breakup (scene charged with emotion)
  • Drunkenness (psychological changes)
  • Complicated by Valium (loss of conscience)
  • Weapon (opportunity)
  • Decides she will win boyfriend back (twisted reasoning)
  • Devilish mood (hate and anger, about to be acted out)
  • Store scene (high tension)
  • Selection of victim

All of these breadcrumbs escort my reader to a surprising ending.

It has been said that the first part of the story should be foreshadowed, and the last part, foreshadowing acted out. Writing is all about techniques and formulas, and foreshadowing, done well, is a sure formula for success.

Your Assignment: recognize ten foreshadowing plots in a story or on TV this week. Don’t forget to like us before you leave the page! Find more great tips in The Writer’s Choice Newsletter at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

What is Foreshadowing?

 

Foreshadowing Tips

by Bob Bruggemann

Wikipedia says foreshadowing is a literary device in which an author suggests certain plot developments that might come later in the story. This is an example of foreshadowing:

Sam thought about what the perpetrator said. It was nothing he hadn’t heard before; he’d been threatened many times. The light turned green and he swung around the corner. His eyes panned down the quiet block of single family homes and he knew something was wrong.  His partner’s house was dark and so was his. Sam rolled up to the curb and turned off the engine. Leaving his cap on the passenger seat, he pulled out his service revolver, loaded a round into the chamber, and cautiously stepped out of the car.   

Sam’s actions give a blatant description of what could happen next. The reader has been forewarned that something might be wrong.  It could be a false alarm or it could be something devastating. Only time will tell.

The reader will fall into this trap easily and without suspicion. It’s perfectly natural for a man to enter a tense and dangerous situation with his gun drawn… but suppose he enters the foyer, the lights suddenly come on, and he hears:

“Surprise! Happy birthday, Honey!”  He found a room full of neighbors in the living room, holding up drinks for a toast. The joy faded as they focused on Sam’s cocked 9mm pistol.

This scenario is a variation of foreshadowing called “misdirection” or otherwise known as a “Red Herring.” See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreshadowing for more examples on the following:   

o   Premonition

o   Master patterning

o   Red herring (misdirection)

o   Prophecy’s and omens

As an author, you control your world, along with everyone and everything in it.  Never be afraid to experiment and push your muse to the limit. There are no limitations to your imagination. Use red herrings and foreshadowing to great advantage.

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