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On Foreshadowing

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Anonymous asked: “I’m a little confused on how to foreshadow when it comes to writing. Can you enlighten me on how I could do that?”

Foreshadowing can show up in a lot of different ways and a lot of the time, you might not notice it until the second time around. It’s a way to warn or suggest what’s to come. In some teachable instances, it shows what these characters are capable of. 

Foreshadowing can be more abstract, especially if what’s to come is a less active and more reflective climax and resolution, so don’t think that the examples I’m picking are the only way to include foreshadowing. 

Foreshadowing will often happen in a novel without you intensionally placing it there. It’s something to set up a reader’s expectations. In some cases, it might help show an escalation of something. For instance, the example I think most American teenagers learn this with is in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. (Fair warning, if you haven’t read the book, I will be ruining the end for you.) 

I think without foreshadowing, the end in Of Mice and Men would have felt kind of out of left field. George shoots his friend Lennie after realizing that he cannot continue to protect him from what he’s done. To foreshadow this, Steinbeck includes a scene where a couple of farmhands discuss putting down an old dog. They eventually decide to shoot it and Lennie’s death as a result is carried out in a similar way.  This is kind of the most teachable example of foreshadowing. The two scenes have a lot of similarities and help suggest George’s mindset and thoughts in the final scene.

When I think of foreshadowing, one easy way for me at least to explain it is a way to show what these characters are capable of – especially if there is a big, explosive finish. Foreshadowing often doesn’t give anything away, but it can be a suggestion that the reader might notice in hindsight.

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