5 MORE Effective Ways to Foreshadow (with plenty of examples)
Foreshadowing, I’d argue is one of the most essential tools in a writer’s tool belt, right next to screwdriver of imagery, the wrench of characterization, and the hammer of pacing. This tool can be very useful or downright essential when it comes to writing fiction, especially when you view the variety of ways it can be utilized in your writing.
Writers tend to use foreshadowing in stories for practices such as setting up future events, creating suspense, patching up plot holes, etc. Foreshadowing can also help evoke a reader’s curiosity to read further, help set up the story, and tends to make a second time reading more enjoyable as you notice things invisible to you before.
This method of placing “hidden” or subtle hints makes the events that transpire in the story more believable as the reader is able to piece together how things occurred.
There are of course many ways to go about presenting foreshadowing, and on this list, I will be giving five ways you can utilize foreshadowing in your story.
Nothing causes you to raise a brow like a someone behaving oddly, behavior out of the ordinary can raise questions and get your audience thinking and taking note that somethings up.
Here are some examples showing how characters can behave oddly, with the expected reaction of the audience to said actions. I underlined things that stand out and emphasize the foreshadowing.
Example 1: Character Actions and Descriptions
- Action: –She eyed the floor nervously.
Audience thoughts: Is she nervous? Why isn’t she making eye contact? Is she feeling guilty of something? Did she do something? If so, what?
- Action: –Beads of sweat dotted his forehead, and moisture soaked the underarms of his jacket.
Audience Thoughts: Why is he sweating? Is he guilty? Is he nervous?
- Action/ Description: -There was something was unsettling about the smile on her face.
Audience Thoughts: Yeah, she probably killed someone. Don’t trust her.
- Description: There was a strange scratching noise coming from the attic.
Audience Thoughts: Nice knowing you protagonist.
Example 2: Character Dialogue
- Dialogue: “Huh, Mary forgot her purse again, she’s not usually this forgetful…” Cynthia trailed off.
Audience Thoughts: What’s on Mary’s mind to make her forget her purse?
- Dialogue: “I don’t-I don’t know about that wooden chest…” Alex stuttered.
Audience Thoughts: Why is he stuttering? is he lying?
- Dialogue: “Oh, Steve, no I haven’t seen him lately, not since the incident.”
Audience Thoughts: Why is Steve missing? How could the incident have caused this?
Keep mind that visual cues can be useful:
Like if the character is: Stuttering, defensiveness, aloofness, tenseness, nervousness, avoiding people or things, shaken, etc.
Descriptions such as these will stand out to your reader and let them know something is amiss.
Weather is a classic way to foreshadow a major event as it can build up tension and symbolically reflect the progression of trouble.
Whether before a fight, a character’s breaking point or big reveal, weather can build up tension and make a great cue for an important scene. Weather, when used right, can subtly fill your audience with uneasiness and signal to your audience the build-up of an event.
- Description: Dark stormy clouds brewed above the quiet town.
Significance: This could allude to something to break the peace, thus a storm is brewing.
- Description: Thunder crackled as the swords of the two knights clashed against each other.
Significance: The thunder emphasizes the danger and intensity of the battle, possibly emphasizing possible high stakes and importance.
- Description: As the clouds above cleared, the knight rose from the dust-covered ground.
Significance: The clouds foretell the end of an event, in this case, the reign of darkness.
- Description: The town rejoiced underneath the bright sun.
Significance: Bright sun= New dawn, a new beginning, things are going to start looking up.
A large part of foreshadowing depends on emphasizing the aloofness of a situation. This is commonly done by mentioning of focusing on irregularities or an uncommon thing.
Example 1: He put on his boots, grabbed his keys, and tucked a knife into his back pocket. Unless this character usually carries a knife or blade in his back pocket, this should be sending some red flags.
Example 2: As we came through the door, and took off our boots, we noticed something, when we left, we turned all the lights off, everything was on. Just then, we heard a thump in the kitchen and a scream. It’s hinted at here that it’s unusual for the lights to be on, this raises questions…(also the noise and scream in the kitchen add to the unease of the situation.)
Example 3: I gripped my stomach in pain, and gazed into my drink. I noticed small white specks floating near the rim of my cup.
Here the character is noticing something out of the ordinary, in this case, white specks that weren’t spotted before…
These scenes build tension as the audience knows that’s something is amiss and let them know something is about to happen.
4.)Catch your audience off guard- This way of foreshadowing requires you to kind of take your audience by surprise by establishing something that’s meant to be good, and giving them the opposite.
In the examples below I used colors to emphasize the contrasting elements.
Example 1: “They told us the boat that would rescue us was supposed to stop at the pier…. “
*a few pages later*
“…Rejoiced shouts turned into confused murmuring as we realized, the boast wasn’t stopping, and it slowly sailed past the pier, and docked further up north.”
This raises questions. Why didn’t it dock at the pier? Why would it dock there? Could this mean trouble?
Example 2: “I waited for the light turn blue, signaling it an all-clear… the light blinked a bright, piercing red.”
Example 3: “That morning, she said would be back by noon, and now it’s nearly midnight…”
Location is a pretty straightforward way to foreshadow. It relies on the audience to associate one element with another element. It’s kind of like how in horror movies when a character enters an abandoned building you get chills or a feeling a dread, it’s like you know something horrible is going to happen.
-The hotel was run down and shabby looking, with faded tiles, torn curtains, and tinted windows.
-Water dripped from the pipes and upon hitting the sediment echoed into the darkness.
-The house was quiet other than a silent creaking in the distance.
These examples paint an unnerving setting so the audience gets a feeling that something bad may happen. What’s helpful about this way of foreshadowing is that it can help paint the mood or atmosphere for a scene.
Well, that’s all I have for now on foreshadowing, I hope you found this post a natural sequel to my previous post on foreshadowing.
But now that I finished this post I wanna know, do you agree with my tips on foreshadowing or was I too vague on a few points? Whatever your opinion is on this matter I’d love to read it, so feel free to comment or tweet at me.
Until next time!