One of my number one pet peeves is people who don’t indicate. Are they trying to kill me? They change lanes by swerving in front of me without warning; they stop in the middle of the road for no reason and then suddenly turn onto a side road without warning; they merge towards me without warning.
It’s no joke. Indicating saves lives.
In literary terms, foreshadowing is the equivalent of indicating.
Maybe it’s not life-saving, but it is a useful device. You’re telling your reader – without telling them – what’s coming. So it’s a bit more subtle than “Hey, I’m turning left now.” You’re hinting. You’re insinuating. You’re planting a thought. “Hey, maybe I’ll merge. Sometime soon. You might see it coming, you might not.”
Isn’t that cheating?
No. There’s two valid main reasons for foreshadowing:
- To build anticipation in your reader. What’s going to happen next? Ooh, dramatic tension!
- To make strange or unlikely events seem credible. The reader is mentally prepared for it to happen because someone already hinted that it could
So, how to do it well? How to do it poorly? It all depends on which method of foreshadowing you’re using.