Episode 85

Foreshadowing Takes Finesse

We are beginning our discussion on foreshadowing today, in both fiction and nonfiction.

Music licensed from Storyblocks:

“More Jam Please” by Raighes Factory

"Calm and Cozy: Lo-fi Vibes" by The Turquoise Moon

“Little Noir Night” by Humans Win

Rosemi Mederos:

If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.

Welcome back, writers. We are beginning our discussion on foreshadowing today, in both fiction and nonfiction. There is quite a bit to cover, so we’ll be spending this episode in the Writing Break cafe. Let’s head to our usual table, where I’ll fill you in on some publishing news.

The Wall Street Journal has stopped running its weekly bestseller lists, effective this month. Circana BookScan provided the data for these lists, and the contract the Wall Street Journal had with them has expired, and they have decided not to renew.

The Wall Street Journal ran a total of six fiction and nonfiction lists, as well as a hardcover business list. It will still publish book reviews, articles about the publishing industry, and interviews with authors. However, the paper will no longer publish its own bestseller lists.

Amazon has sued 20 people who run publishing services that trick aspiring authors into thinking they are endorsed by or affiliated with Amazon. These companies advertise in Google search results for terms like "Amazon Kindle Publishing" and use Amazon logos heavily to make themselves look legitimate. Let’s hope this lawsuit puts a stop to them and prevents others from trying to do the same.

We’ve talked before about book review bombing on Goodreads, which is when people leave negative reviews for books that they haven’t actually read. In episode 72 I told you about an unreleased Elizabeth Gilbert book being so inundated with negative reviews on Goodreads that Gilbert decided not to publish it. Well, now Goodreads, which is owned by Amazon, has announced that it is taking steps to combat this type of thing. For starters, earlier this year, Goodreads launched the ability to temporarily limit ratings and reviews on books during times of unusual activity, such as review bombing. Goodreads also said that it is currently removing ratings and reviews that were added during previous unusual activity.

Now, let’s make ourselves comfortable on the Overthinking Couch while we get acquainted with one of my favorite literary devices.

Today we are talking about foreshadowing. I love when an author knows how to incorporate seamless foreshadowing into their story. To be clear, foreshadowing is a literary device used to hint at future events in a story. It isn’t just used for negative events either; foreshadowing can clue your readers in on a positive event that might happen in the future, and that alone might keep your readers reading until the end of the book. This is a literary technique that can be used in both fiction and nonfiction, and it can be found as early in the book as the book’s title.

Foreshadowing can be used to create suspense, build tension, or prepare the reader for a plot twist, and it can be done in a variety of ways, such as through dialogue, imagery, or symbolism. It can also help to add depth and complexity to characters and events. Working foreshadowing into a story takes finesse, but as with all things related to writing, the more you practice, the more you’ll improve.

Foreshadowing can take place in the narrative or in the dialogue. It can be subtle or obvious, direct or indirect. In direct foreshadowing, the author explicitly hints at what will happen later in the story. It is the most obvious type of foreshadowing.

An example of direct foreshadowing in the dialogue would be a character making a prediction about the future or warning another character about something that is going to happen.

An example of direct foreshadowing in the narrative would be the narrator using ominous language or imagery to hint at what is going to happen.

A character might also have a prophetic dream or vision, which might or might not include dialogue. I am not a big fan of dreams as foreshadowing because I feel that it is overdone, but there are some stories in which a dream as direct foreshadowing works well.

Indirect foreshadowing is less obvious and more difficult to identify than direct foreshadowing, but it can also be more rewarding for the reader. When readers are able to pick up on indirect foreshadowing, it can make them feel more engaged in the story and more satisfied with the ending. For example, the author might use symbolism or imagery to suggest what will happen later in the story, a character might make an offhand remark that turns out to be a foreshadowing statement, or the setting and atmosphere create a sense of foreboding that lets the reader know something isn’t quite right here. When attempting to write indirect foreshadowing, make it subtle enough that the reader doesn't immediately recognize it.

Foreshadowing is a great tool for authors, but it is important to not overdo it. Too much foreshadowing can ruin the suspense and make the story predictable. Keep in mind that foreshadowing is not always literal. Sometimes, authors use foreshadowing to hint at a symbolic meaning rather than a literal event.

Paradoxically, readers like being surprised, and they like trying to figure out where the story is headed. Foreshadowing is a powerful way for authors to engage their readers and keep them guessing. When used effectively, foreshadowing can create a sense of suspense and anticipation that can make a story memorable and satisfying for the reader.

We will be continuing this discussion in the next episode, and I’ll bring Chekhov’s gun into the scene, and fire it, of course. I will also have some examples of famous foreshadowing moments in literature, and maybe even in film. If you have any favorite foreshadowing moments, send me an email and tell me all about it. Until then, thank you so much for listening, and remember, you deserved this break.

If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at podcast@writingbreak.com.

Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.

Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Allon Media with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at writingbreak.com or contact us at podcast@writingbreak.com.

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Rosemi Mederos


Rosemi is the founder of America's Editor, a book editing company.