Handling Foreshadowing

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Thread: Handling Foreshadowing

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    Default Handling Foreshadowing

    One of my favorite things about TV shows with intricate storylines or novel series is the foreshadowing, especially when it's done well where there were hints when you least expected them and you pick up on them rewatching and/or rereading the whole story (see Avatar:TLA or any Tokusatsu works with Yasuko Kobayashi heavily involved). I'd like to know how one can really handle this effectively, especially if your story is subjected to changes. How does one manage to hide the truth in plain sight until it's finally revealed?

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    Ankh-Morporkian Citizen. The Patrician's Avatar
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    Default Re: Handling Foreshadowing

    You want to use tiny details that may seem insignificant at the time yet not make them so obvious they stand out a mile away.

    I've read a book a while ago (its name escapes me) in which the big twist at the end was that the main character was a psychopath and his rage was increasing until he murdered his best friend. The way the author handled the foreshadowing of the building rage rather than simply saying he was psychotic was well thought out. Firstly, all the locations the character visited slowly became redder and darker, more furniture was red as he went along until he walked into his friend's house and saw that "he'd bought new furniture" because the chairs, rug and wallpaper was all red. There was also a change in the character's personality; some things the friend said earlier that was fine suddenly the main character thought was selfish and annoying. This friend was suddenly a d***, even when he was being kind but the book made you see it from the main character's point of view so you effectively thought the same thing as him.

    In my opinion, foreshadowing should be built up until the big event or you should find a link to the little facts that surround the big truth and only reveal the link when you need to.
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    J'ai Envie De Toi AetherX's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Handling Foreshadowing

    Objects are wonderful ways of doing foreshadowing. Throwing something important into a paragraph of "useless" description can have a profound impact. Take the locket in Harry Potter for example. They find it in Sirius's house in the fifth book, but it was hidden in an otherwise humorous description of house cleaning. Rowling often makes little hints at magic that is never explained, so pretty much everyone that read the book forgot about the locket. Then it became super important in the next book.

    For a more personal example (Unpredictable ending spoilers ahoy)...


    It's much easier to do this in first person imo, but as in the Harry Potter example, third person is possible.
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    Default Re: Handling Foreshadowing

    I don't have a lot of advice. I feel like whenever I do foreshadowing it's so ridiculously obvious that that is what it is, even if the audience isn't entirely sure what exactly said foreshadowing is hinting at. Though I think it's possible that I'm being less obvious than I think I am. I hope that's the case anyway.
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    Default Re: Handling Foreshadowing

    Just a quick thought, if you've played Bioshock: Infinite or indeed the first Bioshock video game, they handle foreshadowing perfectly, making it so that when they give away the ending, people have to go back and play it again to try and make sense of it all.
    "This isn't the time to make hard and fast decisions, it's the time to make mistakes. Take the wrong train and get stuck somewhere great. Fall in love...a lot. Major in philosophy because there's no way to make a career out of that. Change your mind and then change it again because nothing is permanent. Make as many mistakes as you can. That way, someday, when they ask you what you want to do with your life, you won't have to guess. You'll know."

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    Default Re: Handling Foreshadowing

    This is just my thoughts, and I haven't played any bioshock games, but I don't think you should ever have to reread/re-watch/re-play anything for it to make sense. It's awesome if every time you go thorugh it again you see more, connect more, and get more out of it, but if it doesn't make complete sense on the first go, then something is wrong.

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    J'ai Envie De Toi AetherX's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Handling Foreshadowing

    At least in the case of Bioshock, I've found that if you pay close attention the first time through you don't necessarily have to go through it again. The Bioshock games have those kind of storylines where things make less and less sense the farther you get into the game, but the ending presents the answer that ties everything back together. I wouldn't consider that foreshadowing as much as effective mystery storytelling.

    Although in the case of non-mystery stories, that's basically how good foreshadowing works. When the reader goes through for a second time, they should be facepalming at how stupid they were for not noticing all the hints that led up to the big ending.
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    Default Re: Handling Foreshadowing

    What I think about foreshadowing, in my opinion at least, is that it isn't just about keeping things reading and then surprising the readers, obviously people have to notice these things from time to time, a good point of foreshadowing is that the reader themselves do it, they start to think about what's going to happen and yes, sometimes what's going to happen is obvious but that's not a bad thing because at the end of the day, whether you believe it or not...when you know what's going to happen or at least you have an idea and you like it you end up loving it more when it does happen...if that makes sense. For example in the first chapter of Dragon's Roar I described this sphere that would later work to reveal the past of the setting and the islands where the academy was, a lot of people missed that but a lot of others didn't just like a lot of other people saw a twist that was going to occur near the end of the story, and that's good, cause that was my intention.

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    Default Re: Handling Foreshadowing

    I usually don't do foreshadowing, at least not to start out with, because it's not very often that real life offers clues as to what the next big plot twist will be. Think about it—whenever a juicy scandal or horrifying attack occurs, it's usually on the news without any buildup whatsoever. Thus, with the majority of my heroic characters being ordinary people, I find it more realistic to have a massive twist come completely out of nowhere from their perspective, and afterward change POVs to explain in great detail what all led up to it. This helps me in my goal of making my heroes suffer as much as possible; after all, having no clues to work with creates a sense of powerlessness, which leads to frustration, despair and tragedy. Ah, I love my job.

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    Default Re: Handling Foreshadowing

    @Glitchipedia That sort of thing comes off as an Asspull and tends to be frowned upon from a narrative perspective.

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    Default Re: Handling Foreshadowing

    Well given the fact that most of my twists tend to boil down to "Who's going to die this week?", I think hinting at the answer would greatly lessen the impact. And where's the fun in that?

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    Default Re: Handling Foreshadowing

    Quote Originally Posted by Glitchipedia View Post
    Well given the fact that most of my twists tend to boil down to "Who's going to die this week?", I think hinting at the answer would greatly lessen the impact. And where's the fun in that?
    That makes me ask: what's the difference between an asspull and a genuine twist? It can be easy to miss some subtle foreshadowing not stated outright.

    Anyone?

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    Default Re: Handling Foreshadowing

    I think if I can go back through the series/previous chapters and see something that makes tons of sense when looking back on it (that I most likely brushed off as inconsequential before) that would lead me to accept the twist, then I'd accept it. That way, I know for certain that the author knew what he was doing when writing the twist, and wasn't pulling stuff out of nowhere.

    ...I can't think of any decent examples right now, so here's a half-assed one from The Dark Knight. (Spoilers ahoy)

    And here's a less good twist from The Dark Knight Rises


    Anyway, if I can think back to specific (or general, actually) instances before the twist happened that make sense with the twist, I'm usually good with it.

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