Saturday, August 18, 2012

Week 34 - Foreshadowing

19 Aug - 25 Aug: I just knew that was going to happen.

Here are some basic definitions from Wikipedia, just to focus my thinking:

  • "Foreshadowing or adumbrating is a literary device in which an author indistinctly suggests certain plot developments that will come later in the story."

  • A red herring is a deliberate attempt to mislead the audience.

  • A flash forward (or prolepsis) is an explicit account of plot outcomes.

  • Telegraphing is extreme hinting at or foretelling of the outcome early in the piece.  It is suggested that this technique dampens suspense, (though perhaps if a reader knows what happens, the how can be used to drive the story forward).

  • And what about the flash-sideways to alternative realities, or states that are independant of time (more on 'time' next week)?

Okay, all very interesting - back to foreshadowing.  Rust Hill (Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular) suggests that foreshadowing can be achieved through the following.  Most are pretty obvious; some require a little more thought:

  • Theme;
  • Description of setting and mood;
  • Vocabulary and the sound of language;
  • Tone and voice;
  • Dialogue;
  • Imagery through metaphors and the use of symbols;
  • Parallelism, that is, incorporating meaningful subplots;
  • Chronological inversion such as flashbacks or framing;
  • Sequentiality or progression, that is, establishing a course of change toward an inevitable outcome;
  • Choric devices, that is, using a detached figure or action to explain events to the audience, for example, soliloquys, witches in MacBeth;
  • Insertion of the supernatural, such as ghosts, oracles, horoscopes etc.

And then, of course, there is aftershadowing.  This can be used after the fact to revisit the literal or symbolic elements raised by foreshadowing if the writer feels that characters (or readers) need a reminder of something significant.

Instead of writing more, I'm going to read back through the above list and think about how relevant each technique is to my current project, and how each have been, or may be, used to strengthen my storyline.

During Week 35, I will continue to look at the concept of Time in writing.

Exercise 67.  Recover a short story or chapter that you've already written, and highlight where foreshadowing has been used or identify where foreshadowing can strengthen the piece and revise accordingly.

Exercise 68.  Draft an outline for a story (long or short), with a clear ending in mind.  Include possible foreshadowing elements with plot points.


  1. Egg,

    You have a great site and like you I am begining this journey. I have read/learned several of the things you have as well but what I admire about you, is that you write it down for others.

    I look forward to the day when you and I meet at a writer's confrence. You of course are the Keynote speaker and I am just a author talking about my next best seller.

    Can't Wait!

    1. Hmmm I might be at that writer's conference too. I'll be the sponge sitting in back furiously scribbling notes from the two of you.

      Rob, thanks for pointing out this site on your blog. Egg, thanks for writing it! Great information here. I'm glad to know you're out here.


  2. Thanks Rob and Julie. Regardless of who's orating, scribbling or throwing little squares of cheese across the room, first drinks are on me.

  3. Egg,

    fire away at will. I trust you completely but please be honest. If it sucks please say it. Thanks