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Welcome to my blog! This is my journey, my first steps into the world of fictional writing. This blog is an online journal of sorts, where I share the progress of my work as well as what I have learned along the way. I hope you enjoy your time with me and that my experience may be of some use to you.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Foreshadowing



Welcome back!


    In one of my earlier posts, I discussed several different plot devices and their purpose within a storyline. Their role is to help move the story forward by revealing information to the reader in a specific fashion. This can be achieved in various ways, such as creating sense of urgency, supplying needed resources or removing an obstacle from the protagonists path. Today I will see a new plot device; foreshadowing.


The literary device known as foreshadowing can be compared to a hint, whose goal is to allude to potential events later within the storyline. Usually found at the beginning of a book or before a climactic scene, foreshadowing allows the writer to build anticipation and awareness, grabbing the reader's interest and giving them some idea of where the writer is taking them. In a sense, it allows the audience to be prepared for the events further into the storyline.
 

As I mentioned in my previous articles, a writer must learn to control the flow of information they give to their audience. Foreshadowing is a tool which helps in this, by giving the reader select information about the direction of the story. By giving this small “peek” into the future, a writer helps the reader develop expectations, without giving away the story or spoiling the suspense.

By creating these expectations, the writer can use foreshadowing to create different effects.
 
An example would be by creating an antecedent, or more plainly, a situation where we know the end result. This creates tension, causing the reader to anxiously await events to repeat themselves. This is not to be confused with prolepsis (or “flash forwarding”). The main difference between the two is that were flash forwarding offers the reader a vision of the future, foreshadowing can only offer an assumption of the future.

The author may also choose to use foreshadowing to offer unreliable information to the audience. By creating assumptions in this fashion, the writer can mislead the readers towards a dead end or false clues. This technique is often used in tandem with the “red herring” plot device in mystery stories.

Foreshadowing may also help the audience better grasp bizarre or unusual elements within the story. By presenting strange phenomenon early, the reader will have a chance to learn more about it, as it is slowly explained throughout the story. This way, when this event happens again, the reader is better informed, and thus will be more inclined to believe the storyline.

           There are various ways foreshadowing can be created. It can be hinted through something as simple as a conversation between characters, as straightforward as a conflict between elements in the setting, as subtle as a chapter title or as dramatic as giving away the ending at the beginning of the story. These clues about forthcoming events in the story can take many forms, but often come in one of two types: Direct or Indirect

Direct Foreshadowing

           As its name implies, Direct Foreshadowing is when the author simply tells the audience what is coming. It is a straightforward telling of future events, with no hiding or room for misinterpretation.

           A good example would be when the author uses a time lapse in there story. This could be either a flash forward or a technique called In Media Res (starting a story from the middle). Unless the story is about time travel, the future is considered to be written in stone. By giving the audience a glimpse of upcoming events, they not only know where the story is going, but that these events are inevitable.

           The subject of time takes us to another form of Direct Foreshadowing; retelling of historical events. By writing a tale based off of real world history, the author can plainly state the outcome of the story at any given time, since it is already a known fact.

           Probably the most common type of Foreshadowing in fiction would be types of predictions. This is when upcoming events are explained to the audience, such as when they are made privy to the characters plans or when they face prophecies. The reason this approach is so popular is because even though the audience knows the characters intended actions, things do not always go according to plan. This allows the writer to create expectations in the audience, while still holding the element of surprise.

Indirect Foreshadowing

           A more subtle way of telling the story’s future is Indirect Foreshadowing. The author uses this technique to hint at impending outcomes with signs that can be left to interpretation. These clues come if different variations, such as:

  • Character Reactions: How characters interact with objects in their environment could be interpreted as a hint to their role in the story.
  • Environmental elements: Sudden changes in the weather or terrain can affect the mood of the narrative, effectively drawing the reader’s attention to a potential clue of things to come.
  • Potential Conflict: If two or more characters have a clear dislike for each other in the beginning of the storyline, it could be a sign of a fight later on.
  • Antecedents: Repetition can be a good indicator of what will happen next. If one character steps in a trap, odds are if a second character does the same he will suffer similar results. A popular example of this are the “red shirts” from Star Trek, where one person would die, giving the audience an idea of what the consequences were.
  • Looming presence: Sometimes only having a presence is enough to announce upcoming actions. The “oncoming storm”, the “trap” or the “tall dark stranger” are all examples of story altering presences we have heard of in the past.

       I am glad to have explored this plot device further, as I had run into some situations which required making the audience aware of certain information before another element was introduced. I will be using foreshadowing in my own story, as it has proven to be a very useful tool for this type of situation.

That is all for now, so until next time!

Cheers

Patrick Osborne.

 
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