Monday, 30 January 2012

Shadows, Guns and Signalling.

Casting Shadows...
F - Foreshadowing
To foreshadow, according to my dictionary, means showing or suggesting an event beforehand. It is an interesting word to use in thriller writing as it can be used as much or as little as you like. It can be a very slight hint or could be a full scale seeing the future in some form or another.
In terms of gendering suspense, I think it is invaluable. It signifies to the reader that a particular thing is important and it raises tension so that the reader keeps the pages turning. I think foreshadowing is used to some degree or another in all thrillers. It can be as subtle as an atmosphere or as obvious as a piece of information or an object of interest.
As writers we may shorten sentences and paragraphs, speed up speech and ratchet up the action to indicate that things are rising to a climax or something important is about to happen.  In films, we are all familiar with the notion of background music telegraphing turning an ordinary event into something sinister. This too is foreshadowing.
The main thing about foreshadowing is that we use it early in a piece of fiction and then deliver on the promise later in the story. It is a skill that takes a degree of practise, I feel, in order for it to not appear obvious. The reader should have an ‘ah ah!’ moment later in the story and it should come as a bit of a surprise - if it’s done correctly. But one that when they look back, they see it was correctly done and they were not hoodwinked. The other important thing about foreshadowing is that the writer must not renege on the promise. As has been said elsewhere, 'If you show a gun at the beginning of your story it better go off by the end!'
Another tool to make fiction more enjoyable? I think so…
So, do you use foreshadowing in your writing? Do you find it easy?


  1. This is so important in a book. Like you said, it has to be done correctly, otherwise it seems trite. I do use it some, in my romances, depending on what I need it for. And almost always in revisions, I read the end result and have to go back to the beginning to fix the foreshadowing so it will work better. Very very important to get it right. Great post.

  2. You have to be careful to be subtle about it. Ideally the foreshadowing should fit neatly into its place and seem to relate to something that is already going on in the book. Only later do you realise....
    Sometimes a foreshadowing stands out because it's just a little bit odd. Like in the movie Iron Lady the young Thatcher says "I don't want to end my life washing teacups" and the movie ends with the old Thatcher washing a tea cup. Clever.

  3. Yes, I use foreshadowing in my WiP. It is definitely a complicated task to get it right and it takes considerable amount of practice. But, in the end, it is worth it.

  4. I must admit, I find foreshadowing very hard to do. I'm always afraid I'm being waaaay too obvious.

  5. Many thanks to you all for taking the time to comment. It is much appreciated...