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Questions about foreshadowing

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cluless

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I’ve been reading writing material on the internet about foreshadowing, but I still have questions. For example, I'd like to know if weather can be used as a type of foreshadowing. What about dialogues? My main character’s little brother has a nightmare. When he wakes up, he tells his sister that someone’s coming to take him away. He's later kidnapped. Could the little brother conversation with his sister be a type of foreshadowing? Also could someone recommend a few YA novels that use this literary device? One more question can you only use foreshadowing at the beginning of a chapter that you want to plant a clue?
 
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rwm4768

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In my opinion, foreshadowing should be subtle. I think there was a time when weather was used as foreshadowing, but now that's not as popular. It screams "It was a dark and stormy night."

Using a nightmare as foreshadowing is also a little strange. If it's fantasy, I might buy it, but otherwise it seems contrived.

And you can use foreshadowing whenever you want, chapters or even books ahead of time. I always found J.K. Rowling did a great job of presenting seemingly inconsequential things in one book and having them become important books later.
 

cluless

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Thanks, rwm4768! The story I’m working on is a fantasy.
 

OutOfYourReality

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The weather thing is used quite often in movies, and while I don't remember any books off the top of my head that use the nightmare like that, I think it's perfectly usable. However, both of those methods are more or less definite indicators that something will happen, rather than hints. Not to say that's a bad thing -- it just depends what you're going for.

To me, the term foreshadowing refers to more subtle things, like a one-off remark by a character that ends up having some truth or relating to a future event, or a detail in the environment that ends up being important later.
 

J.S.Fairey

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Yeah, the weather thing is sometimes called Pathetic Fallacy, and, as said before, is a little cliche and overused. The nightmare idea could work, but it seems a little head on, and direct; I prefer foreshadowing to be so subtle you don't take any notice of it until later when the thing happens that was foreshadowed. I don't know if its YA, but Of Mice and Men does some great foreshadowing for the finale, using extended metaphors and other characters situations, so I'd give that a read.
 

Bufty

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Foreshadowing is the subtle referencing to something that in later pages causes the reader to snap his fingers and say- ah! I missed that, or, yes, I wondered why that was mentioned back there.

It's not something to worry about. Don't try to be clever about it - - it either happens and works or it doesn't.
 

Cathy C

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I'll have to partially disagree with you, Bufty. Actually, I've always considered that foreshadowing has to be carefully planned by the author or it doesn't work. You do have to worry about it, if it's a technique you want to use. It can easily become telegraphing, where you give away key moments too early. Good foreshadowing is only a hint and works best when completely out of context. For example, I have one heroine who has an art hobby that requires precisely straight lines, and she prides herself on her art. Because of it, she tends to sell more pieces to supplement her income. But it turns out later that her fanatical attention to detail made her art take on magical properties.

So one didn't really have anything to do with the other, until it did. That's foreshadowing. :) Out of context and throwaway. That's the key.
 

Bufty

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I see you mention...if it's a technique you want to use.

I don't disagree with you at all, Cathy, but the OP seems to want to put foreshadowing in simply because he's reading about foreshadowing.

It works if it's done properly, subtly as you say, and belongs - it's perhaps not something to be wedged in with a hammer as an afterthought.

Any foreshadowing I've had has been discovered after the fact - it wasn't intentional and I didn't realise it was there.
 

Russell Secord

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The type of foreshadowing that works best for me, as a reader and a writer, is the misleading kind. You leave clues that a certain event is going to happen. At some point an event happens, but it's not the obvious one, and all the clues turn out to have double meanings or ambiguity.
 

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Anything can be used to do foreshadowing: weather, dialogue, dreams, anything. Someone above said that using weather as foreshadowing is cliche, but I don't agree. It all depends on how you use it.

Your example of the little brother telling his sister after his nightmare that someone's coming to take him away doesn't work as foreshadowing for me, however. That seems more like he had a prophetic dream or that the dream gave him a precognitive insight. He's saying it will happen and it later happens - that's like saying your friend is meeting you for dinner and you later meet the friend for dinner.

If you want to foreshadow the little brother's kidnapping, you might have the two kids watching a TV show or a news item about kidnappings in the area. Or you might have them walking home and the sister keeping a sharp eye on her brother because he has disappeared in the past when not watched.

Probably most books use foreshadowing to some degree. For YA books, the Nancy Drew mysteries are good places to find examples of foreshadowing.
The Hunger Games has foreshadowing in it, if you want a more modern book to use.
 

Yukinara

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I agree with Cluebird, Anything can be used to do foreshadowing. It is very important especially when you want to build up for plot twist.

The art of foreshadowing is that you insert common devices, stuffs that people normally ignore (very important). So when you reveal it, it's like an "a ha" moment. This requires a lot of skill, because IMO, not many authors do it right. For example, when I read Cinder, I immediately know the plot twist the moment they mention the princess.

If you want excellent examples of foreshadowing, read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone.
When Harry meet Quirrel the first time, it's a clue for the final scene. When I read that, I didn't really notice it because I thought "well, it's normal for a magic teacher to be in Diagon Alley", also, the scene with Hermione knock over Quirrel to get to Snape.
 

Jehhillenberg

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Anything can be used to do foreshadowing: weather, dialogue, dreams, anything. Someone above said that using weather as foreshadowing is cliche, but I don't agree. It all depends on how you use it.

If you want to foreshadow the little brother's kidnapping, you might have the two kids watching a TV show or a news item about kidnappings in the area. Or you might have them walking home and the sister keeping a sharp eye on her brother because he has disappeared in the past when not watched.

I agree with Cluebird, Anything can be used to do foreshadowing. It is very important especially when you want to build up for plot twist.

The art of foreshadowing is that you insert common devices, stuffs that people normally ignore (very important). So when you reveal it, it's like an "a ha" moment. This requires a lot of skill, because IMO, not many authors do it right. For example, when I read Cinder, I immediately know the plot twist the moment they mention the princess.

If you want excellent examples of foreshadowing, read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone.
When Harry meet Quirrel the first time, it's a clue for the final scene. When I read that, I didn't really notice it because I thought "well, it's normal for a magic teacher to be in Diagon Alley", also, the scene with Hermione knock over Quirrel to get to Snape.

Yes and yes. I would also think that books in general may have foreshadowing, instead of one particular book that focuses on it, since it's a literary device. A device used for storytelling [that I enjoy] in general.

I also agree the it takes "clever" planning to utilize foreshadowing without giving away the book or making it outright predictable. Readers will analyze anyway and look back and think, "oh that was foreshadowed that this would happen!"

Not YA, but here's an example of foreshadowing from a classic: "A man dies at the train station when Anna first arrives, foreshadowing her own death at a train station years later.
 

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http://youtu.be/-6VWpM3FNf0?t=12s

One of the greatest foreshadows I've ever seen in my life.

*If you don't want to watch the video, it's the Jurassic park seatbelt scene where Grant tries to put on his seatbelt, but he only has female connectors, so he ties them together, thus foreshadowing the inevitable breeding obstacle being bypassed by the dinosaurs*
 

BethS

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http://youtu.be/-6VWpM3FNf0?t=12s

One of the greatest foreshadows I've ever seen in my life.

*If you don't want to watch the video, it's the Jurassic park seatbelt scene where Grant tries to put on his seatbelt, but he only has female connectors, so he ties them together, thus foreshadowing the inevitable breeding obstacle being bypassed by the dinosaurs*

Can't believe I never caught that.
 

mirandashell

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I can't believe the producer/director/writer caught that either......

If you want to know how to use foreshadowing deliberately and well, read lots of MTS.
 

Little Anonymous Me

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http://youtu.be/-6VWpM3FNf0?t=12s

One of the greatest foreshadows I've ever seen in my life.

*If you don't want to watch the video, it's the Jurassic park seatbelt scene where Grant tries to put on his seatbelt, but he only has female connectors, so he ties them together, thus foreshadowing the inevitable breeding obstacle being bypassed by the dinosaurs*



:e2thud: And I just watched that again last week. Wow, do I feel dumb. :e2hammer:
 

AGreyWorld

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Foreshadowing is good foreshadowing if I am completely oblivious to it.

I'm not a very observant reader. I like it when other people point out that something was foreshadowed, but I inevitably never notice it myself!

One reader commented my foreshadowing was is too obvious, but then I haven't ever put much effort into consciously adding it and I like things to be obvious as an idiot reader... But yeah, it needs to be subtle to make the people that do see these things squee when they spot it.
 

Buffysquirrel

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Yeah, the weather thing is sometimes called Pathetic Fallacy, and, as said before, is a little cliche and overused.

No, the pathetic fallacy would be when you attribute feelings or thoughts to something non-human, eg 'the dark sky brooded over the city'. It has nothing to do with foreshadowing.
 

Cathy C

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Unless you're Rachel Caine and are writing the Weather Warden series, where weather is sentient and really is out to get us... ;)

Then, it's foreshadowing.
 

LaBelette

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http://youtu.be/-6VWpM3FNf0?t=12s

One of the greatest foreshadows I've ever seen in my life.

*If you don't want to watch the video, it's the Jurassic park seatbelt scene where Grant tries to put on his seatbelt, but he only has female connectors, so he ties them together, thus foreshadowing the inevitable breeding obstacle being bypassed by the dinosaurs*

I've seen that movie at least 40 times and have never made that connection.

Herp
 

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It may have already been foreshadowed in this thread, but in case it hasn't:

Foreshadowing only works for a reader when it comes to a culmination later in the story. Go read Edith Wharton's famous long ghost story "Afterward", often put forth as the finest example of the use of foreshadowing in literature. The last thing you want a reader to do is hit some detail or passage early in the story and go, "AHA! That's foreshadowing!"

Often the most effective foreshadowing seems accidental. And might indeed be so.

caw
 

hikarinotsubasa

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Go read Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief. Twice. The first time enjoy the story, the next time, go back and enjoy all of the tiny little details that didn't seem to mean anything at the time, but on the second read-through will have you saying OH YEAH. JK Rowling has already been mentioned and she's great about it as well.
 

Jamesaritchie

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I never, ever plan foreshadowing, or anything else. I wouldn't have a clue how to go about it. Maybe I could do so If I outlined, but I have no idea what's going to happen on the next page, let alone somewhere five chapters later. I just write, and foreshadowing happens.
 

TopHat

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It may have already been foreshadowed in this thread, but in case it hasn't:

Foreshadowing only works for a reader when it comes to a culmination later in the story. Go read Edith Wharton's famous long ghost story "Afterward", often put forth as the finest example of the use of foreshadowing in literature. The last thing you want a reader to do is hit some detail or passage early in the story and go, "AHA! That's foreshadowing!"

Often the most effective foreshadowing seems accidental. And might indeed be so.

caw

I like to think that your subconscious knows about all of these genius things in your story, it just doesn't tell you about it.
 

blacbird

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I like to think that your subconscious knows about all of these genius things in your story, it just doesn't tell you about it.

Well, of course, that's the Freudian viewpoint. Maybe I was a little imprecise to use the word "accidental". But I do think that writers sometimes introduce a detail or nuance early in a story without any direct purpose in mind, and find it useful for later purposes.

And I'm sure many writers go back and add little things to earlier portions of their story, to foreshadow later stuff they've already written.

The key point is that you can't hold up a big writer's sign announcing to the reader: "Hey! Wake up! I'm foreshadowing here!"

caw
 
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