Monday, 12 November 2012

Sowing The Seeds or 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.
Another way is sowing seeds that may bear fruit later in the story.  For example mentioning a character has a particular skill which may appear quite innocuous at the time but which later figures heavily in the plot. As they say, if you have a gun appear in the first chapters it better be used by the last chapters!
The main thing about foreshadowing is it needs to be used early in a piece of fiction and then it needs to 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 a surprie that when the reader looks back, he/she can see it was correctly done and they were not hoodwinked.
Another tool to make fiction more enjoyable? I think so
So, do you use foreshadowing in your writing? Do you find it easy?


  1. I've used it in my books. It works for any genre, although as you said, it must be done right.

  2. It takes a little practice to use foreshadowing just right -- but that's what revisions and multiple drafts are for!

    My favorite kind of foreshadowing is when I wrote something into my draft just because it popped into my head. And then it turns out to be extremely important in the end. (Do you call that foreshadowing out of the subconscious?)

  3. I struggle with foreshadowing, because I often feel I'm being way too obvious! Good thing I don't write suspense.

  4. Not easy at all! This is something else I'm still trying to master. I think it will often seem obvious to the writer, but hopefully not to the reader!