Make Foreshadowing Part of Your Arsenal When Writing a Novel

There are many techniques you can use to help you to write a novel, but when you are just starting off they can appear confusing and difficult. Foreshadowing is a very useful technique and you will find it in many novels. You can look back at novels you have read to see how it was used or see our examples below.

Foreshadowing When Writing a Novel

How to Write a Novel
How to Write a Novel

Foreshadowingis a way of giving readers information that doesn’t seem relevant or significant at the time that is going to become really vital later on. It is a way of planting information in the reader’s mind so that they can recall it later, thereby giving them a better understanding, giving the earlier scene more relevance. In a detective novel, maybe the character will hear or see something that seems irrelevant at the time, but then later becomes really important to them working out who the murderer was.

An example to illustrate this point would be of a wife finding a receipt in her husband’s wallet or a payment on a bank statement and thinking she knows what she’s getting for Christmas. Only come Christmas Day she discovers, in front of her parents or close family member, perhaps of an older generation, that the scarf or underwear he has bought isn’t for her. It’s for himself and he is cross-dressing – and has been doing so for a good many years!

☺Bet you thought we were going to say it was for another woman!

You can also set the scene to have more impact later. For example, an overworked husband asks his overspending, lazy wife to book him a doctor’s appointment, but she forgets because she is spending the day at the spa with her friends. A couple of chapters later, when he’s rushed into hospital with a suspected heart attack, the reader can imagine how guilty she is feeling as he is wheeled down the corridor on a trolley. Or does she?

Examples When Writing a Novel

In the novel 1984by George Orwell, a great example of foreshadowingoccurs where Winston thinks that:

[i]n the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it.

Before the end of his rehabilitation with O’Brien, Winston accepts this as truth. In other words, eventually this demonstrates that people will believe anything they tell them and in the end Winston does.

J. K. Rowling used foreshadowingthroughout the Harry Potter series. In my personal opinion, it demonstrated skill as the significance of some things was not discovered until later books in the series.

Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir, a young boy from Kabul, who befriends Hassan, his father’s servant’s son. It is set against a backdrop of the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy through the Soviet invasion, the mass exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the USA, and the rise of the Taliban regime. Amir recalls an event that happened twenty-six years before, when he was still a boy, and says that that made him who he is. Amir feels immense guilt over failing to stop the rape of his servant and best friend Hassan. It isn’t until twenty-six years later that he redeems himself by rescuing Hassan’s son from the same man. I don’t want to spoil the plot for you, but there is an excellent example of foreshadowing involving a sling shot.

We hope our examples of great foreshadowing have inspired you to use this technique as part of your writing arsenal to help you write a great novel. For more useful writing techniques that you can employ when writing your novel, read My Guide: How to Write a Novel.