…and its name is foreshadowing
True to its name it is a faceless cloud of angst that hangs over me during the editing process. Why is it my nemesis? Because I find it so damn tricky to get right.
Foreshadowing is the art (and it really is an art) of hinting at what is to come so that, when those big twists and defining moments happen, the reader believes it whilst still being floored by the said twist. It is so tricky because, to get it really spot on, the reader should be unaware that they are being prepared for a major plot event. And, of course, you don’t want to give those twists away too early; you still want your reader to have that “oh my goodness!” moment.
There are many subtle ways this can be done: dialogue, the internal monologue of your protagonist, using changes in weather/setting/scenery to reflect or contrast the changing events in the story, increasing tension in the lead up to the event (using action, dialogue, narrative structure etc) or by showing a character acting out the traits that the forthcoming event depends on, but to a lesser degree. So if, for instant, the twist depends on a character lying, show (always show, I have to remind myself, never tell) them lying on a smaller scale, thereby subtly preparing the reader for this character lying again further on in the story.
There are so many tools you can use, so surely it should be easy? Wrong. Again, this is a falling point for me as I can never decide which, or how many, of the techniques to use. And they shouldn’t be individually overused, so getting the balance right is also important.
You can begin to see why I find it so difficult.
I’m on the home straight. I remind myself of this when I start to lose faith. I have done the ninth re-write and I am really happy with it. Now I just need to iron it out with some editing, add a few elements here and there to improve the reader’s experience and make it shine. It’s just about patience, perseverance and hard work and I will master this foreshadowing jazz.
It’ll be easy, right?