Black cloudForeshadowing

Over the last several weeks, we’ve been discussing the many layers of a story from Inner Journey to Theme and a variety of literary devices such as figurative language and most recently motif and how you can utilize these tools to add depth to your writing and story.

The final literary device we will review is foreshadowing.

What is Foreshadowing?

Foreshadowing is a tool used by writers to build anticipation in the minds of readers about what might happen next and thus adding dramatic tension to a story.  It is most often found at the beginning of a story to hint at what is to come later in the story.

There are a variety of ways of creating foreshadowing within the text of your story. A writer may drop clues in a character’s dialogue. Also, an event or action in a story may hint to the reader about future events or actions. Story titles, chapter titles can also act as clues and suggest what is going to happen.

Foreshadowing helps to create an atmosphere of suspense in a story so that the readers interest is peaked and they want to know more.

If you haven’t added foreshadowing in your first draft, use your second draft as an opportunity to return to the beginning of the story and insert some dialogue, an action or an event that may hint as to what is to come for your ancestor. Don’t give it away. Otherwise, there is no reason for your reader to continue.

As you look at your 2nd draft and begin your rewrites, consider where you can add foreshadowing in your scenes to help add a layer of suspense for your reader.

Let’s look at a couple of examples from some great authors.

When I think about foreshadowing, I’m immediately transported back to my high school English class… the days of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.

  1. In Hamlet,  Shakespeare used the ghost to foreshadow the events that were to come.
  2.  In Rome and Juliet,  Juliet says:

Go ask his name.—If he be married.
My grave is like to be my wedding bed.

             Of course, we all know how that turns out.

3. In this excerpt from to Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee,

             “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

In this quote, Atticus Finch tells his children that courage does not come from bearing arms, but from trying to do the noble thing even when the odds are against you. This quote foreshadows the main struggle of the novel as Atticus tries to defend Tom Robinson in the courtroom knowing that there is no hope.

And finally one last example from The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. There are many examples of foreshadowing in the Glass Castle but right from the start, Jeannette foreshadows the story that is too come.

4. In the beginning, of the Glass Castle,  Jeannette sits in her Manhattan apartment surrounded by beautiful material things,  seeking comfort, but that comfort is short lived as she begins to think about her parents living on the street somewhere. This scene foreshadows the story that is to come,  the Jeannette’s chaotic and unusual upbringing.


Go back over your opening scenes, is there an opportunity to foreshadow a future event in your ancestor’s story?