An essay that covers the principle highlights of Foreshadowing and gives examples, finding foreshadowing in narratives that offer guidance on how to deploy foreshadowing and its functions, though also why to use foreshadwoing.
Why? So readers are timely informed of, prepared for events' significance to come when they arise, and for tension development, especially suspense and its related curiosity influences. Tension comes from what readers know beforehand, before dramatic events take place, such that they're on tenterhooks until events of consequence occur, which, when they do, they are tension reliefs.
Four principal areas for foreshadowing types:
Future events as a definite future tense expression or a conditional future tense or a prophesy, prediction, expectation, etc.
A change in setting, ambience, mood, tone, or weather taking place or impending
Attitude and emotional commentary about events, setting, setting objects, or characters
Narrator or viewpoint reflector noticing a seemingly inconsequential motif and speech or thought commentary about the motif
However, foreshadowing is one of several related writing methods and principles. Others include pre-positioning, front loading, and Chekhov's Gun.
Foreshadowing specifically deploys motifs that are related to plot development.
Pre-positioning motifs may or may not relate to plot development and not necessarily signal upcoming events, though a pre-positioned motif does influence narrative authentication and may be a repeated motif for symbolism, imagery, and sensory theme-related functions. Pre-positioning may, for example, imply an alienation theme using portraits of coldness--weather, impersonal indifference, etc. In these senses, pre-positioning may inform message though not necessarily plot. Narrative authentication is the main function of pre-positioning.
Front loading puts detail, meaning, mythology up front or at least begins development of a mythos motif's relevance to later understanding of important details. A brief description of an engine's properties--basic nature and behavior--, for example, up front begins developing the relevance of the engine as it matters at the moment and will also matter later, maybe to a plot, though different in that it too authenticates the narrative, though specifically the mythos of the motif in terms of its relevance to the milieu and, specifically, the meaning of it at the moments it matters to a viewpoint reflector: narrator or character.
Chekhov's Gun is a principle which demands no coincidences, no deus ex machinas, and is fully all three above. If a gun will fire in the last act of a narrative, it must be foreshadowed in a prior act. If a gun will fire in a last act, it must be pre-positioned. If a gun will fire in a last act, its meaning must be front loaded earlier. Not just firearms, or any weapon, nor final acts, any motif with agency later must be developed earlier, be that motif an event, setting, character, object, weather feature, mood, ambience, tone, mythology, milieu feature, etc.
Surprises notwithstanding, a Chekhov's Gun needs agency before and after events of consequence, it needs to cause change, be changed, be a transformative influence. Hence its relevance to plot, hence its relevance to narrative authentication, hence its relevance to its mythology--its meaning to its mileu and a viewpoint reflector and influence upon a viewpoint reflector and milieu and a viewpoint reflector and mileu's influence upon it.
I have had a heck of a time mentoring a couple of young writers and trying to get the concept that effectmustfollow cause. I know this is a form of foreshadowing, but I think for them, I'll just stick to trying to get them to understand if somethings happens in their story it must have a cause and the readers have to know about that cause before the effects of that cause happen. It's like trying to herd cats.
Causality is problematic for writers who are unfamiliar with event connections' proper order. Causality is a form of foreshadowing too, though more general and not exclusively. Implication, too, is for foreshadowing, causality not exclusively, neither.
I guess the young writers think nearby in word relationship or later on is good enough because their minds and memories make and remember the connections between events, though they stretch readers' capacities and lose them for it.
One of the more common examples of disorganized causality I encounter is an emotional reaction followed by its cause, usually summarized and explained. A common example is a sigh effect followed by the cause. Carrol Leary sighed. The way ahead was muddy and crooked, about as depressing a path as Leary had seen in all his long life.
Another common example is a character seeing her or himself look, a reaction, at another character's eyes for a reaction before the cause, double reaction before the cause. Heyberry glanced at Martin's narrowed eyes. He saw the same long ore sliver of gold in the rock just as Heyberry did. They'd hid the mother lode, the miners who the two men had killed back in town, behind black soot, tailing dirt, and mine timbers.
Sort of an Oh-yeah, I need to explain why the reaction happened and never get around to straightening out the ad hoc causality fallacy. As if a sigh causes the path to be muddy and crooked!?
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quote:Originally posted by extrinsic: A common example is a sigh effect followed by the cause. Carrol Leary sighed. The way ahead was muddy and crooked, about as depressing a path as Leary had seen in all his long life.
I actually think this example may be benign depending on the style of narration. I don't think anyone is actually confused by this sort of thing. Writers write this way not necessarily because they're disorganized; this pattern reflects how the human mind often works: rationalization commonly follows reaction. It can often be some time before a person understands his reaction to something -- if ever. I have on occasion even seen people who were quite obviously angry who weren't even aware that they were angry.
This is one of those things like starting a sentence with a conjunction. That violates the tenets of certain writing styles, but it also reflects the way people sometimes think and is particularly useful when narrating from deep inside the POV character's head.
quote:Originally posted by extrinsic: Another common example is a character seeing her or himself look, a reaction, at another character's eyes for a reaction before the cause, double reaction before the cause. Heyberry glanced at Martin's narrowed eyes. He saw the same long ore sliver of gold in the rock just as Heyberry did. They'd hid the mother lode, the miners who the two men had killed back in town, behind black soot, tailing dirt, and mine timbers.
Interesting. While logically what I said above could be applied here, this example seems much more disorganized to me. I think this is because there's so much more detail in it it's harder to link the cause and effect.
With respect to foreshadowing, the article raised a certain about credibility in some kinds of stories, particularly in using the weather to foreshadow future events. In third person past narration, you could put it down to cognitive filtering, but in omniscient narration of present tense it may strike readers as physically implausible.
Another use of foreshadowing is to lay the groundwork for a future plot twist. In a sense this is complementary case to suspense. You don't want the foreshadowing to haunt the reader's awareness, but rather to make the sudden change in the story's direction seem in retrospect (only) predictable.
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The first example arguably has effect and cause close enough in sequence that their order is not too problematic, the sigh itself a nonconscious act foreshadowing of a deliberate introspection. The example is less than ideal, though, due to the introspection clearly connecting to and emotional attitude toward the nonconscious emotional reaction of the sigh effect.
A neutral attitude would illustrate the backward causation stronger. Carrol Leary sighed. The path before him bent along the stream bed. The sigh is itself problematic because sighs come in a number of emotional reaction effects: sadness, joy, pleasure, pain, boredom, disappointment, and so on. Further, the sigh, because it's a nonconscious reaction, beneath notice to a character who sighs, is a narrator summary tell.
However, as an interjection phrase, "Carrol Leary sighed." sets up for an introspection following it. Starting a stream-of-consciosness pasaage with an interjection is a conventional thought-signal practice, though I avoid sighs and similar empty meaning facial expressions.
Though I've known people to sigh on cue, seemingly naturally, the sole function in every case of one deployed in writing I've seen has been to establish non-emotional context or texture, like naming a character, for an action pause, to attribute dialogue or thought without using a tag, for a writing tic of the nonsense discourse marker interjection type, and so on. The sigh itself meaningless and as a best practice excised altogether, unless as an external observer's notice and consequent attitude reaction toward the observed subject such that the attitude characterizes the observer and the subject who sighed.
The second example's confusion, difficult to track because its causality is backward, is entirely backward start to finish.
Causailty issues arise when ad hoc, cum hoc, and post hoc fallacies connect noncausal causes and effects, which can be used to good effect, or be logic vices. Magical thinking is an example of causal fallacy which may be used to good effect. Superstitious beliefs, for example. Knock on wood, cast spilled salt over the shoulder. Toss a paper wad at a trash bin, if it goes in, good outcomes will transpire. If it misses, bad outcomes will transpire.
Though theoretically inverted causality may reflect a viewpoint character's awareness process progression, like, because a sigh is nonconscious, the sensory stimulation and the reaction to it seemingly concurrent from the viewpoint character's perception, the events are sequential, however. Placing a brief reaction description before its cause then places influence emphasis on the reaction up front and impact emphasis on the cause at the back end.
Otherwise, the chaotic causality may confuse from straining readers' credulity, consciously or oretherwise, and losing their attention from the confusion, especially when inverted causality accumulates in quantity. But everything under the sun and the night has its day in prose, where it works or doesn't, even backward or ad hoc, cum hoc, post hoc fallacies. The challenge is for illogical causality to serve intent and meaning, not be left jumbled such that cause and effect are haphazard. And by logic, I mean linear cause and effect, not the rational reasoning meaning of logos.
Inverted causality used for dramatic effect benefits from foreshadowing and such, not so that it keeps readers confused and in the dark, but when misapprehensions of a viewpoint reflector inform meaning and intent and plot. A dead body, for example, is an effect that is the mainstay routine interruption for murder mysteries. The murder has prior causes. Unraveling the puzzle of the dead body is the main action. If the murder solution is given up front, as foreshadowing perhaps, there is no mystery puzzle to solve.
A thriller, on the other hand, may solve a murder up front and foreshadow the pyschological horror of stopping the malefactor, say from making off with the enriched plutonium for bombmaking and terrorist use action to come. The murder itself the signal events are amiss, otherwise insignificant to the thriller overall. I could see an investigator observing an inside man sighing and the sigh then be suspected as a tipoff the sigher is involved in the plutonium theft.
A project on my drafting board has a deuteragonist whose emotional reactions are observed and reacted to with attitude by the protagonist. I won't use more than three sighs, if any, preferring instead to imply the sighs through other sensory descriptions.
The admonition against starting a sentence with a conjunction is a "rule" created by grammar school teachers to minimize a bad habit of young writers prone to begin every sentence with a conjunction, every clause, every paragraph, every chapter, every narrative. Subordination conjunctions are a useful sentence opening, though not every clause, not even more than one per paragraph idea.
Correlation conjunctions are about midway between problematic and meaningful, when used for suitable idea empahsis. Coordination conjunctions starting a sentence are more problematic, though they are common in speech, used as discourse marker interjections: wool gathering, nervous tics, keeping the speaking floor from interlopers, intended as empahsis though meaningless. Conjunction overuse is, however, as problematic as nonsesnse discourse marker overuse: well, like, you know, okay, uh, oh, etc. Conjunction use, their function is to signal emphasis. Overuse or misuse blunts or destroys their emphasis potentials.
The "Carrol Leary" example isn't "disorganized causality"--it's organized storytelling.
It's perfectly valid storytelling device to tease a reader along by setting little hooks or riddles, and then answering them. Done well it's an easy and unobtrusive way to add some variety to the narrative pacing.
"Carrol Leary sighed." [Reader wonders why she sighed] [Author answers, Because] "[t]he way ahead was muddy and crooked."
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extrinsic, my previous post on causality may have inadvertently derailed the intent of this thread. I’m sorry. It seems to me to have devolved down to a discussion around what comes first, cause or effect in narrative? For example:
John yelped when he stubbed his toe. – Cause following effect.
John stubbed his toe and yelped. -- Effect following cause.
This isn’t what I meant and I’m sure isn’t meant by foreshadowing. I use narrative, or story foreshadowing in most of my stories and it falls into three main categories: Overt, Covert and Implied. I’ll see if I can give clear examples.
Overt foreshadowing: Uther Pendragon thrusts Excalibur into the stone ensuring that only his heir, the True King, could draw it forth. Along comes Arthur and draws the sword from the stone and so proves he is the rightful heir to the throne.
Covert foreshadowing: In my story Æsir Dawn, I have a scene between a supporting female character on her wedding day and my heroine. The entire scene has one purpose, to ask this question: “And what of the future for my children?” and give the heroine’s answer. It seems, on the face of it, to be an innocuous little scene that simply expands on character development. It isn’t until the final chapters that both the question and answer reveal their significance. I trust my readers to remember the original incident when the sown seed germinates.
Implied foreshadowing: In the same story, I have my hero’s father and mother engaged in a conversation. The mother can see that the father is agitated and seeks to draw out the reason. It boils down to the fact that he has been asked to arm and armour their son with weapons that can defy the gods and may indeed kill them. He doesn’t want to do it and his wife asks why? His response is to ask the question: “And what do you think the gods would do to the family of the man who made these weapons?” His wife replies, “Make the armour!” I haven’t said what would happen, I just asked a rhetorical question and my readers will fill in the blanks. When the catastrophe of the story unfolds, they’ll remember this moment and know that the parents of my hero went willingly to their ignominious deaths without me having to say it. Again, I trust my readers.
Causation is related to foreshadowing, and is a method for accessing it through drafting. For example, if a firearm is necessary later, pre-positioning it earlier puts the firearm into play. The gun is handy for causality when needed that way and foreshadows through implication that firearm violence will take place.
"Will take place" is a future tense expression, one of the four general categories of foreshadowing. Future tenses may express conditional, improbable, expectable, even simple present expressions for foreshadwoing.
The first example, Uther puts Excalibur into a stone, uses also an object's transformation to signal foreshadowing. Loose to bound by magic to await its true inheritor.
The second example, "And what of the future for my children?" patently a future foreshadowing category.
Making weapons that can kill gods also is a future foreshadowing, also objects that have transformation potentials in several ways; that is, kill gods, cause the maker and his family possible hazard, and are agents of change.
Changes of motifs, events, settings, and characters, scene changes too, also revelations and reversals that are surprise turns in dramatic conflict and complication, is a third category of foreshadowing. Once a motif changes, ongoing change is foreshadowed too. Motifs' foreshadowing is subtler than future projections, and wanting more emphasis so the foreshadowing is memorable. Objects' foreshadowing likewise are subtler than future projections, comparable to change's subtlety to a degree.
Viewpoint reflector noticing an at the moment inconsequential motif is subtler yet, The motif doesn't seem to have relevance at the moment but is fraught with meaning for later. Firearms, for example, or a skill like hunting--patently an ease with killing and weapons use for subsistence purposes, an easier step from there to violence against people than for a weapon-naive person, and foreshadowing violence to come.
The almost universal opening feature of a routine is itself a pendent foreshadowing. Nature abhors stasis--routine--as much as it abhors a vacuum. Readers want, crave a change to happen soon, which foreshadowing prompts and delivers upon. A challenge of opening with a routine is making it ominous, pendent, implying or directly showing events are about to take a turn for the worse.
Foreshadowing and the like are challenging in general, an advanced writing principle with a steep learning curve. The many narratives I've read that lacked for foreshadowing missed its capacity to develop tension.
For example, say a babysitter goes into a basement with her or his charges. Bam! Things go wrong. Too sudden. The crisis moment comes across as a step toward a crisis, instead of the outcome of a building crisis. Tension arises from what readers know beforehand. A moment of crisis then is tense, both emotionally influential and curiosity arousing. Foreshadowing is the method to accomplish that. When and where is the insertion point for a foreshadowing motif; there's the rub. When its pendent menace, say, or transformative influence, its agency sets up tension development.
The kids of the baby sitting example above, they talk about the mysteries the basement holds beforehand. The kids want to unsettle the babysitter, so they act weirdly and spook the babysitter before they go into the basement. Basements are spooky anyway, from their liminal nature, nonliving spaces below ground, at the portal to the underworld from the normal world. Don't go into the basement!? Ooh ahhh!
The kernel substance of foreshadowing technique is emphasis proportional, timely, and judicious to a motif's relevance and significance when it comes into play. The arming scene, common to action adventure narratives, for example, is a foreshadowing of the violence to come. As is the disarming scene. Both changes in terms of object motifs.
For that matter, generally, emphasis's importance is likewise oftentimes under-realized, or untimely, injudicious, and out of proportion to its influences.