I figured this aspect of creative writing was safe from my roving, disapproving eye. I mean, in my mind it’s essential to fiction like verbs are to sentences. Maybe. But enough of me showing foreshadowing in perhaps too subtle ways! Advice about this essential technique isn’t exactly homogenous on the webz. This is where I step in.
This article isn’t about me telling what foreshadowing is and how to do it. Others have already invested time, energy, and web space doing this and I’m not about to re-invent the wheel just so I can increase blog hits from new writers seeking advice. In the discussion of foreshadowing, I’m recommending this article on the basics and a follow-up on examples. Instead of basics, here you’ll find a voice of dissent, and right now the voice is crying writer beware. Some of the advice I’ve seen out there is crappy. If you follow it, your writing will suck. How’s that for foreshadowing?
I’m coarse, but in a fine-grained sandpaper kinda way. My contribution to all this freely available writing advice is to fine tune your attempts at foreshadowing… mostly by telling you the things you can do without.
Weather/Time of Day Foreshadowing. The night was stormy. For real? Dark too? Man, evil must be lurking. Some of that deep-seated, page turning lurk. Does your sunset hail the imminent approach of something ominous? Sure, the night is dark and full of terror, but you may want to play around in the broad, open spaces of broad daylight. At this point, it’s hard to determine whether your weather pattern hasn’t been memorized, ingrained by readers who are subconsciously tired of seeing serial killers who got plenty of knives and no raincoats. So defy expectations. It’s a cold world… even in summer.
Symbology. Red is hot, like anger. Blue is cold, like revenge, you know–when its best served. Wait… isn’t vengeance red too? But if you do it again, you get revenge, which is blue. And you may have to do it again, because the adversary ran away the first time cuz he was yellow. I’m not saying symbology and metaphor don’t have their place… they certainly do. I’m just saying you may be wasting your time with obtuse people like me. Symbols mean different things to different people. I only caution you to proceed carefully if you assign heavy weight to symbols for your story to carry impact. Worry about having a killer plot and awesome characters first. You do that and guaranteed readers will be interpreting symbols out of everything you wrote, whether you meant it or not, and flaming each other on the Internet cause the other fans aren’t true fans.
Snitch Narrator. “Naturally, she would’ve never gone down that street if she knew what awaited at the end of it.” If she don’t know then I shouldn’t know. Stop snitching, narrator. Doing this is absolutely criminal in first or third person point of view, and unless done super genius cleverly, it’s a pretty cheap trick even in omniscient POV. The narrator knows enough to tell me something’s a-coming but won’t cut to the chase and tell me what it is already. Not cool. We can’t even be friends if you do me like that, storyteller. Just in case the nuance of this example didn’t register, here’s another: “If the narrator only knew how much their disembodied commentary annoyed the reader instead of stoking interest, narrator would’ve just shut the hell up and let the story play out.”
Again, these are things I think you can do without. I know I’m tired of seeing them. And who am I? I’m just a dude who reads a little, writes a little, not the Chosen One of Prophecy. Unless… you believe in The Prophecy…