March 3, 2011


Foreshadowing is one of the most interesting techniques to use in writing. It lends a story continuity, tying the beginning in with the middle and the end, and also serves to let the reader know that the author is conscious of where he or she is taking the story. In essence, it allows the writer to pull back the veil a little for the reader and give a glimpse of what is to come - even when the reader is unaware that this is being done until the event actually takes place. It can be a foreshadowing of something relatively small, or something grand and momentous; its fulfillment can be fairly obvious and only the circumstances be shrouded in mystery, or the hint may be so slight that the fulfillment comes with a shock. Either way, there is something about it (if well done) that gives a thrill of expectation to the reader.

Foreshadowing is used in many different ways, in many different stories. It is especially obvious in prequels, such as C.S. Lewis' The Magician's Nephew, a backstory for his The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe which tells Professor Kirke's story and that of the birth of Narnia. The whole story could be referred to as a foreshadowing, really, as it sets the stage the arrival of the Pevensies and all that follows thereafter, but there are also specific elements that are more noticeable; for instance, the poignant scene in which Digory Kirke encounters Jadis at the gate of the Garden. On the gate inscribed in silver are the words,

"Come in by the gold gates or not at all,
take of my fruit for others or forbear,
for those who steal or those who climb my wall
shall find their heart's desire and find despair."

Naturally, Jadis climbed the wall and ate one of the apples of youth, establishing herself as a permanent evil in Narnia, and that looks forward to the time when she rules Narnia as the White Witch. Not only does The Magician's Nephew answer questions that arise in the other books of the series, but it adds depth to the world Lewis created and to the events in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This is the same for any series in which the author ties the books together, especially those where the plots are only loosely bound together, yet have similar threads running through them. In Rosemary Sutcliff's Eagle of the Ninth and its sequels, she links the novels together with the use of a family ring that passes down the generations of the Aquila family. (While this is not strictly foreshadowing, the principle is the same.) On the other hand, a series in which foreshadowing is not used would be Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet, in which the second book makes no mention of the events in the first and thus lacks continuity.

But one problem with this is that writers don't always know where they are heading with a story; after all, Tolkien had only fragments of ideas for The Lord of the Rings when he began The Fellowship of the Ring. When this is the case, it frequently shows in rough drafts as the writer's knowledge of the story increases. Thus comes the need for editing, and it is in this process that foreshadowing can be added as the writer weaves the two halves of the novel more tightly together (something that Jenny wrote an excellent post on a little while ago).

Another use for foreshadowing is to keep readers turning pages. It is not always the best option to drop the reader in the midst of an action scene on page one; sometimes a more "normal" setting is needed to paint a background for the rest of the novel and set up the plot, and so the beginning of a story often has a slower pace than the middle and climax. In such cases, hinting in the first chapters about what is to come later helps keep readers tantalized and waiting for the next twist in the plot.

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meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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