Story Stuff: F Is For Foreshadowing

A couple of weekends ago I finally saw Logan. And while it was very well made, it freaked me the hell out. The fact that it’s the first X-Men movie to be rated R because of extreme violence was no secret, but being an avid Marvel fan, I wanted to see it anyway.

I’m glad I did. But I don’t think I’ll see it again. I rather like blinking and kind of miss doing it.

Anyway.

What made it well-made was a combination of cinematic effects, characters, and unlike some superhero movies, a cohesive story. One element that stood out in Logan brings us to today’s topic in our series: foreshadowing.

F

Foreshadowing sets up readers/viewers for things to come. It’s what the “Chekhov’s Gun” principle is about – if something appears in the story, it should matter to the story.

chekhov

Readers will sense something is important just because it’s there. What can lead to surprising twists is how that something comes into play.

Logan

Credit: imdb.com

Consider the adamantium bullet in Logan (if you haven’t seen it, don’t worry. I’ll include enough info for you to get the point and avoid spoilers). Because of Logan’s healing factor, the only thing that can kill him is a bullet made from the same metal that laces his bones. He carries around such a bullet, “just in case.” In one scene, Laura has found it and is holding it, asking why he has it, though she already knows.

So all through the movie we’re thinking this bullet is important. It may be the thing that brings Logan to his end. Turns out the bullet was important, just not in the way we thought.

The bullet wasn’t the only example of foreshadowing (Professor X’s seizures were another), but it may have been the most significant. The movie obeyed Chekhov’s Bullet superbly.

What are some of the best examples of foreshadowing you’ve read/seen? 

14 thoughts on “Story Stuff: F Is For Foreshadowing

  1. I like the way you wrote the concept of foreshadowing
    In my current WIP, I introduced protagonist’s friend, Priya, and her boy friend. But I brought them in the story again, and towards the end where they get married. Otherwise it wouldn’t have made any sense if I just introduced Priya in the beginning, and forgot in the rest of the novel

    Like

  2. Chekov was the navigator, right? On Star Trek?

    And . . . he had a gun?

    Okay, here’s the thing: all the stuff you include in the story needs to matter to the story, but some stuff matters more than other stuff, and some stuff needs to matter if only to make sure it doesn’t really matter.

    I like foreshadowing – when it’s done well. Which is rare.

    I love subtle stuff that I see and others don’t. In The Godfather, when Luca Brazi goes to meet with Tataglia at Tataglia’s bar and the camera views the start of the meeting through the etched glass window of the bar door – images of fish – and later Luca Brazi is said to be dead and “sleeping with the fishes.” Or in Jaws when the fishing vessel The Orca is sailing out of Amity Island harbour with Captain Quint, Hooper, and police chief Brody aboard, and the camera views the departure again through a window, but this time also through a skeletal shark’s open mouth – and later the killer shark in the movie eats the ship and Quint. The image is, they are sailing right into the mouth of the shark – and they do.

    I love that stuff.

    Love it.

    So when I see foreshadowing in books, I worry that it’s too DUN DUN DUNNNNN saying, “This is important! Remember this for later!”

    I’ve done that. Heck, I’ve actually had a critique partner (okay, it was you) say a certain line at the end of the chapter was too DUN DUN DUNNNN.

    That, I didn’t love so much.

    But you were right, and I needed to assume my reader was smart, so we played it less dramatically and it delivered the message just as well. Maybe better, since the revised line didn’t insult the reader with HEY DUMMY THIS IS IMPORTANT!

    We all have to learn.

    Which was my point. Probably. New authors can easily be too subtle (Hey, the smiling face in the cloud was his mother) or too overt (“And with my prayer, I doomed us all”), and learning how to get it right takes practice but it also takes time and effort and likely the fresh eyes of a CP calling you out when you overplay the point.

    But in a mystery there NEEDS to be some red herrings – false leads that don’t actually solve the case. In love stories, there need to be hurdles for the MCs to overcome. Often, those things are small but they play a role because they are not important – which makes them important!! See?

    So when Mike in Poggibonsi gets in the car to take his oversexed, obnoxious friend to the airport, they have a discussion about hot Italian women and how the new guy at work is gunning for Mike’s job, ALL in the name of foreshadowing. Everything they discuss happens in the rest of the book. Also, the wife’s oldest friend getting divorced makes Mike worry about how things might go if HE got divorced, which also sets up the end of the book. It’s all there, if you are paying attention, and you could say, gee, the whole book is laid out in these two opening chapters.

    But if it’s like Chekhov’s gun, maybe you don’t fire it in the very next scene.

    Maybe you do a little navigation first.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s funny you mention Star Trek. Last night we watched the second one of the new series – the one with Khan. In an early scene the admiral is talking while looking at model ships on a shelf, ending with the biggest and scariest looking one. Turns out it’s the model of the warship he secretly had Khan design and used to almost destroy the Enterprise. Subtle foreshadowing I hadn’t caught before.

      There are other “translations” of the Chekhov quote – one is if there’s a gun in act one, it needs to go off in act three. I totally agree with you that some things matter more than others. I plant things in my books that readers will probably only catch on a second read, like little Easter eggs.

      I also agree with you that I was right. Hehe. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Easter eggs ROCK. I’ve had the pleasure of discovering a few while reading and the thrill has pretty much never left me.

        It’s like you know something nobody else does, your little secret. Who doesn’t like that?

        Anyway, while subtle foreshadowing is often caught the second time around, especially when we have our writer’s brain engaged, good foreshadowing should be apparent to the aware reader/viewer. That’s the trick.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Blogging From A to Z Challenge – Theme Reveal! | Allison Maruska

  4. Awareness of the power of foreshadowing is important. The reader can be included in complexities, where minor characters can be oblivious. Frederick Stanley, in my latest novel Galactic Mission, notices a young woman at a nearby table, wearing a woollen hat and blue leather coat, messaging on a tablet.He is caught up with high risk Quadrant business, as one of their agents. He contrasts his world with her relaxed one. The reader, though knows her to be Adriana from the Galactic Command Force. Not, just a young woman messaging a friend!

    Liked by 2 people

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