What Are the Different Methods of Foreshadowing?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2019
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While there are many different methods of foreshadowing, common approaches for writers include the use of dialog to hint at what may occur, events or actions to create hints, and hints through titles or other types of metadata. Dialog is often an excellent way for a writer to hint at what is to come, though it should not be blatant. Certain events or images within the story can also act as foreshadowing, usually creating a sense of suspense or danger. Even the name of a work or a chapter title can hint at what is going to happen and make a reader want to know more.

Foreshadowing is a literary technique in which an author presents an idea that hints at actions or events that are to come within the work. One way to create this type of hint is for a writer to have a character speak a line of dialog that acts as foreshadowing. This can be somewhat precarious for writers, however, as excessive hinting in this way can make characters seem prescient or provide too much information for a reader. It is typically better for a character to say something like “I feel like I’m forgetting something,” rather than “I feel like I forgot to turn off my oven, which can make my house explode.”


Events and images within a story can also work as excellent methods of foreshadowing. A writer might describe a scene in which someone is sitting at a table, surrounded by shadows, with a large knife lying on the table in front of him. This immediately creates a sense of foreboding and makes the reader wonder what is going to happen, specifically with the knife. Another story might use action as a method of foreshadowing, perhaps showing a character who is clumsy throughout the story and eventually dies when he trips down a flight of stairs.

Metadata, which is information about the story outside of the actual text, can also be used to create foreshadowing. This is commonly seen in many books and other forms of entertainment in which the title of the book hints at the action that is going to occur. More specific foreshadowing can be created through the inclusion of titles for individual chapters or sections. A story about someone’s financial ruin over the course of a year might be broken up into three sections named “Spring,” “Summer,” and “Fall;” each name serves to indicate the setting, as well as hinting at the tone of the action within that section.


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Post 2
@ElizaBennett -- I was all set to tell you that Ibsen was the guy you were looking for (I thought it had something to do with Hedda Gabbler, in which a gun does indeed go off, but I looked it up and it was Chekhov!)

There's actually a name for the idea: Chekhov's gun. It's not only about foreshadowing; it's also about not cluttering up a story with elements that won't mean anything. There's a great Wikipedia article about it. He actually said it several different ways, in letters and so forth.

You do see certain conventions of foreshadowing over and over. A woman between the ages of sixteen and fifty is vomiting, or simply spending too long in the bathroom? She must be pregnant.

Post 1

Isn't there a famous quote more or less about foreshadowing? I think it was a famous playwright, because it has to do with plays.

Something about if there is a gun in Act I, then by Act III the gun must go off. Which I assume extends to any source of danger. Like in the beginning of Game of Thrones, there's all this talk of what a good climber the little boy is and how he never falls and so on. So you know that kid's going to take a spill.

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