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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Foreshadowing

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!



Nancy A. Niles
Author of:

Vendetta: A Deadly Win

Foreshadowing is one of those techniques that seem to come naturally and effortlessly to most writers. It is something that happens often in real, everyday life and can be blatantly obvious or so subtle that it can easily be overlooked.

Foreshadowing has been described as being hints of what’s to come. These hints can be delivered by the author through narrative. They can be spoken by the characters. They can take the form of thoughts in the POV character’s mind. They can be symbolic. They can come through the sense of smell, the sense of sight and hearing. Usually a writer’s imagination is the limit when it comes to foreshadowing.

Verbal Foreshadowing is when the hint is said through dialogue such as one character asking the other if so and so still carries a gun, or as subtle as asking if so and so is still taking medication. These examples leave the reader wondering if that character is going to shoot someone or wondering what would happen if he/she stopped taking the medication, or if the medication could somehow make her/him change in some way, maybe become violent, or at the very least, unpredictable. The reader then expects something to happen from this foreshadowing and it cranks up the suspense. These gems can be interspersed throughout the novel to bring interest and a bit of intrigue to the story.

Foreshadowing Through Inappropriate Responses. This is done through having one or more characters react to stimuli in an inappropriate manner, such as, in a fearful situation, the character, instead of showing fear shows amusement. What is going on? Has the character set up the other character for a downfall? Has the character been scared into insanity? This type of foreshadowing tells the reader that more is going on and prepares them for the unexpected.

Foreshadowing Through Thoughts in the main character’s mind can give hints of what may be coming. Such as, “I wondered where he had been. Some said he’d been away on a vacation. But I could never find out where exactly he’d gone. Camp Fed? Or the Good Shepherd Home For The Silly? Wherever he’d gone he seemed to have gotten a new lease on life. He seemed more determined, more purposeful, as though he had plans. But for what? Revenge? Did he have murder on his mind or was my imagination working overtime?” Well, you get the point. The main  character can lead the reader anywhere through her thoughts and a little paranoia is always called for especially in the PI genre.

Foreshadowing Through a Character’s Fears is closely related to foreshadowing through the character’s thoughts. However, the fear factor makes the foreshadowing more ominous. And again, in the PI genre the detective is usually cynical and expecting the worst, not believing anyone or anything.

Symbolic or Paranormal Foreshadowing can be something that the main character brings to the reader’s attention. In the horror genre I’ve noticed many times the author will tell the reader of legends surrounding certain animals. Such as, crows are the harbinger of death. They supposedly carry the dead person’s spirit to the other side. And then lo and behold a flock of crows appears just as the main character is setting out on her journey. Or make it one crow who is hunched on a fence post, its beady obsidian eyes tracking the main character. In that instance, less is definitely more. Actually, the author can make up their own legends and feed them into the story. Or the more subtle approach could be an icy touch of wind on the back of the main character’s neck when they look into the eyes of the antagonist.

Which leads me to another type of foreshadowing: Bodily Reactions in Foreshadowing. Who hasn’t read a book where a chill goes down the spine of the main character, or the main character experiences a shortness of breath at the mention of a name? It is both a subtle type of foreshadowing and also rather obvious. It tells the reader to be warned, something is not quite right, and who among us has never felt a chill at certain times that turned out to be a warning?

Foreshadowing Through Smell, Sight and Hearing. This is also called setting the stage, or using setting as character. In the PI genre the setting is usually as haunting as the haunted main character. The PI is in the streets that teem with the smell of fear, violence and decay. You just know the main character is in an unsafe place and violence is expected. Sounds of people fighting, guns going off, etc., also foreshadow danger. Smell can let the reader know someone is smoking marijuana, or the stink of whisky, or even the copper smell of blood can lead the reader to expect certain things to come.

This is a great way to foreshadow. Especially with the sense of smell since smell is so closely connected to memory. The author can have the main character smell bodies being burned and then find out that it isn’t bodies, but it’s the Fourth of July and there are barbecues happening. The main character interpreted the smell from a memory that still haunts him of the Vietnam War and witnessing people being burned alive. This type of foreshadowing gives the reader a window into the main character’s mind and past experiences. It can foreshadow a tenuous grip on reality and make the reader nervous for the main character.

Foreshadowing Using the Weather and Dreams, Or Through Finding Something Out Of Place. An impending storm or natural disaster is a good way to foreshadow a possible upcoming suspenseful event. Dreams can warn the main character and the reader of something coming and finding an article out of place can foreshadow mischief. And who among us hasn’t seen that solitary shoe out of place on the highway and wondered what happened to the owner?

I’m sure there are many more ways to foreshadow. In my novel Vendetta: A Deadly Win I used foreshadowing throughout the book.


Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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