Readers love foreshadowing in a novel. It is an undisputable fact. However, your readers will not love your foreshadowing or your novel if you have used foreshadowing in a wrong way. You should use foreshadowing to increase story suspense in a subliminal way, to deepen a character’s personalization, and to foretell major events of your novel, of course. There are two elements of foreshadowing: the subtle hint and the payoff. If one or the other is wrong, then you have not created successful foreshadowing in your novel. If the readers are able to see through the hints and guess at what the payoff would be easily, then you have failed at the task. Below, you will find all the ways in which you can make a mistake when using foreshadowing, and you will know what not do when using foreshadowing in your novel.
1. Using too many red herrings
One of the best things about foreshadowing is that you can use many hints to foreshadow an event, and make all of them point to a different outcome. When done right, you can use red herrings to draw the readers’ attention away and surprise them when the payoff occurs. However, if you have too many red herrings that draw the readers’ attention, you will end up taking their attention away from the actual story. The best thing you can do as a writer is surprise your readers with your novel, but using too many red herrings to do so will annoy them instead.
2. Foreshadowing minor events
The payoff is the tip of the iceberg that makes your novel excellent. On the other hand, if the payoff is a minor event that does not have significance in the grand scheme of things, then you have used foreshadowing for the wrong event. Look through your novel carefully, and decide which events need foreshadowing and which are not important enough in the plot and the characterization. If you have foreshadowed many minor events, while ignoring the climax and other major plot points, then you need to make changes in your novel immediately.
3. Placing hints out of place
For the sake of being obvious, never place foreshadowing hints in a way that feels obvious. Most readers today are familiar with Chekhov’s rule. If you place a gun where it does not belong, the readers will know that the gun will go off by the end of the novel, or even the scene. You need to be a bit more subtle, and place foreshadowing hints in a way that feels natural. Hints that are out of place are obvious to the readers. You will not surprise them with the payoff, and the payoff’s significance will diminish.
4. Placing hints at the wrong time
The wrong time to use foreshadowing in a novel is moments before the payoff occurs. Instead of foreshadowing the climax of your novel in the third act, try to place the hint as early in the novel as you can. On the other hand, keep in mind the length of your novel. If your novel falls on the longer side of the spectrum, then you can use foreshadowing in the middle of your novel, or near the beginning of the last act. If your novel is short, your readers will probably remember what they have read in the middle and remember it easily. The goal with foreshadowing is to have the readers notice the hint, but not pay a lot of attention to it. Then, you want them to forget about it – and remember when the payoff arrives.
5. Interfering with plot and characterization
Foreshadowing can interfere with plot and characterization, especially if you are placing hints where they do not belong. You can foreshadow all of the major events in your novel, and you can do that in many different ways. Nevertheless, that does not mean you must use foreshadowing in your novel, even at the cost of creating plot holes and loose threads that you will not be able to tie up neatly at the end. You will end up with the same problem mentioned above – the readers will notice the oddity and remember it, and the payoff will not be worth it for them in the end. With foreshadowing, less is more, and the more subtle you are, the better. Do not go overboard and end up telegraphing things ahead of time. Doing that will take away the enjoyment and kick out of the payoff, and the payoff is the most important element of foreshadowing.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/photo.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As an art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.