How to Write Foreshadowing in a Novel
Your characters have a backstory, a personal history that will shape their life in your novel. They have childhoods, education, loves, conflicts, careers. All of these must be present in your character building for you to see where you need to foreshadow an event. When the event happens, your reader should be able to look back and think, “Oh ya, I kinda saw that coming”, but still be blown away when it happens.
Keeping Track of Where Your Characters Have Been
To keep track of the timeline in your novel use a paper calendar with large squares, create one online using excel or an app, or use sticky notes. If you have room, put these on your office wall. If something epic happens to Lucy on Friday, you need to leave ‘Easter Eggs’ (metaphorically) or have Lucy experience something similar before the epic event. Put a few ‘Easter Eggs’ in the days, months or years leading up to the event. This gets the reader anticipating something and committed to turning the page.
Examples of Foreshadowing
It doesn’t matter that your protagonist was a ballerina as a child unless she’s a ballerina when we meet her in the story as an adult, or there was a traumatic dancing accident which will haunt her throughout her life and shape her future. The foreshadow leads to an event or a realization in her life later.
One of my favourite old movies is Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? A nasty crotchety old woman is just plain mean to everyone. You have to know there’s something in her past that made her change from the beautiful little girl she used to be. As the story progresses, we see her relationship with her sister whom she lives with and cares for. It’s in the dialogue and flashbacks that we learn what happened to Baby Jane.
By far one of the best movies of foreshadowing is Sixth Sense written by M. Night Shyamalan. The entire movie is leading the viewer creepily towards a shocking truth. I didn’t see it coming until near the end. I believed everything until then and was blown away by the ending. I had to go back and watch it again to get all the clues that were left like tiny breadcrumbs. Now that’s foreshadowing at its best!
Where do you need to add a breadcrumb of information that will have your reader saying, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming! Wait – yes I did!”
Til next time, know you are loved by the One who created you in His image.