How do you feel when you read a story where things work out just a little too conveniently? Manipulated and insulted? As readers, we willingly enter into a story with a suspension of shock, but we can only extend that so far.
As authors, we need to respect the allowances granted by the reader and not push them beyond the limitation.
Coincidence is widespread in genuine life, but readers dislike it. In fiction, coincidence feels contrived and exposes the authors hand pulling the strings. The method to do it is with foreshadowing when you need to present something into your story that feels dangerously close to coincidence.
Definition of Foreshadowing
Foreshadowing is the weaving of tips into a work of fiction for the purpose of making future story occasions feel consistent and natural. Its the remedy to coincidence and, skillfully done, prepares the reader for an approaching plot twist without providing it away.
Readers are savvy individuals. They understand that everything in a story exists on a need-to-know basis and will therefore figure in eventually. Every substantial object, person, or truth requires to be planted in the story prior to it can be credibly utilized, and whatever thats planted should enter play or it buzzes at the corner of a readers subconscious like an annoying housefly.
Remember Chekhovs sage counsel:
” If a gun is holding on the wall in the first act, it must fire in the last.”– Anton Chekhov
9 Foreshadowing Techniques and Examples
For finest effect, foreshadowing must be subtle. Its a skill well worth discovering and will provide legitimacy to your plot twists and suspense to your stories. Here are 9 ways you can do it
1. Let the storyteller expose it.
When the perspective character flat-out tells the reader that something momentous is going to take place, this is. We know what, however we keep reading to discover how.
Heres an example from my narrative “A Touch of Native Color.”
When the breeze whistles through green leaves at a specific pitch or the collapsing smell of moist earth penetrates the air, I remember the day I helped murder an innocent woman.
Or, to quote from a more famous source, Shakespeares Macbeth:
By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.
2. Hold up a mirror
You frequently see this when a story starts and concludes with “bookends,” but it can be used on a smaller scale.
One example that enters your mind is the Alfred Hitchcock motion picture Vertigo. In the opening scene, San Francisco detective Scottie Ferguson is associated with a roof chase where his worry of heights results in the death of a police officer. His condition has actually been firmly planted in the mind of the audience, providing the films ending a sense of inevitability.
Another example remains in Edgar Allan Poes story “The Purloined Letter.” Early on, the culprit takes an essential letter by delicately switching it for an unimportant one. Later, under the really noses of the finest Paris detectives, he uses a comparable technique to conceal the letter in plain sight.
3. Spend time on description
As I stated earlier, readers have an impulse for understanding whats essential in a story. Readers recognize it has meaning and will anticipate it to come into play later in the story when you spend time describing something. Captain Queegs ball bearings in The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk come to mind.
Heres another example, from Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.
I constantly think of her head when I think of my spouse. The shape of it, to begin with. The very first time I saw her, it was the back of the head I saw, and there was something charming about it, the angles of it. Like a glossy, hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil. She had what the Victorians would call a finely shaped head. You could think of the skull quite easily.
4. Use dramatic paradox
This is when you idea your reader in to something your character doesnt understand, playing off the contrast in between what the character believes and the real state of affairs.
Among the most enduring examples is from the Sophocles play Oedipus Rex, in which King Oedipus looks for to discover and punish the guy who killed the former king:
Now my curse on the killer. Whoever he is, an only guy unknown in his crimeor one amongst many, let that man drag outhis life in misery, action by painful action.
Greek audiences, in the understand, rested on their tough, stone seats with rapt attention to see how Oedipus would hunt and destroy … himself.
5. Toss out a casual remark
You might pick to have your character deliver a line that seems insignificant however takes on brand-new meaning by the end of the story.
A well-known example comes from Star Wars, Episode 2, when Obi-Wan provides this wry observation to young Anakin Skywalker:
Why do I sense that you will be the death of me.
Or how about when Indiana Jones admits he hates snakes, foreshadowing his scene in the burial place, caught amongst thousands of Egyptian asps.
Or perhaps when the Sorting Hat is assigning positioning to Hogwarts students and Ron says to Harry, “Whatever house Im in, I hope shes not in it,” in reference to Hermione Granger.
6. Let the environment reflect the future
This is a subtle method in which the natural surroundings, the weather condition, the ambience, established and anticipate future occasions. Heres an example from the opening of Tami Hoags thriller Kill The Messenger.
Rush hour at 4 hours and counting. Every Angelino busting it to get home prior to the paradises opened up like a breaking bladder and the rains came in a gush. The city had been pressed down below the weight of an anvil sky all day.
7. Usage meaning or images
Hemingway utilized the falling leaves of autumn to foreshadow death in A Farewell to Arms. A story destined to end with the facility of peace may include a dove. You get the idea.
A movie example that popped into my head is Body Heat, with the repeated theme of flames foreshadowing the significant last scenes of the movie. The very title– Body Heat– is a multi-layered double entendre.
8. Toss in “throwaway” information
Keep in mind, the plant needs to exist, but you dont want to wave a red flag and jump up and down. Subtle is the name of the game. Present the essential information to the reader and move on.
The reader senses that down the roadway, the barman is going to wish he d shelled out the cash. When lightning strikes, it feels less like coincidence and more like he had it coming.
9. Attach a name
In To Kill a Mockingbird, the Finches do not simply have a garden-variety next-door neighbor– they have Boo Radley. You understand right now, simply hearing him called, that hell be essential later.
Suzanne Collins points out the reaping in the very first paragraph of The Hunger Games, and we right away know shes not discussing using farm implements. An Event has been named, and were going to keep reading to learn more.
Returning to Stephen King– in his novel 11/22/63, he names a character “The Yellow-Card Man,” suggesting that the yellow card and the guy who wears it will figure into the future of the story.
What if I missed my possibility?
You didnt. As writers, were unstuck in time. We do not need to write front to back in direct style. If you get to a later scene in the book and understand its going to encounter as coincidence due to the fact that it wasnt properly foreshadowed– return and set it up.
Readers hate coincidence, but they like well-executed foreshadowing. Just remember, its best used without bells and whistles. Let your foreshadowing be like the subtle placement of Poes Purloined Letter: artfully presented, however in plain sight.
How about you? Can you consider examples of foreshadowing you delighted in? How about a coincidence you didnt? Inform us about it in the remarks.
Lets practice foreshadowing. Select among the 9 methods described in the short article and compose a couple of paragraphs from a scene, utilizing your chosen approach to foreshadow future events. Compose a paragraph informing us about what will happen later in the story to satisfy the foreshadowing.
Compose for fifteen minutes. When you are ended up, publish your operate in the comments, and be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers!
When you need to present something into your story that feels dangerously close to coincidence, the way to do it is with foreshadowing.
Every considerable object, person, or fact needs to be planted in the story prior to it can be credibly used, and whatever thats planted should come into play or it buzzes at the corner of a readers subconscious like a bothersome housefly.
As I specified earlier, readers have an impulse for understanding whats relevant in a story. When you spend time describing something, readers recognize it has meaning and will expect it to come into play later in the story.
Any day where she can send readers to the edge of their seats, prickling with thriller and chewing their fingernails to the nub, is a good day for Joslyn. Get her latest thriller,
Steadmans Blind, an explosive read that will keep you turning pages to the end.
What Leads A Man To Murder, her collection of brief thriller, is available for totally free at
As readers, we voluntarily go into a story with a suspension of disbelief, however we can only stretch that so far.