Foreshadowing – how much is too much?

ForeShadowing 3

I was working on my second edition of a middle grade novel when my editor told me that I should be careful about using foreshadowing to liberally.  It was my writing technique to include foreshadowing at the end of each chapter, if needed. In fact, she eliminated, in each chapter, all but one of my foreshadowing lovelies.  It was hard to take. So, in a state of rebellion I put several of the best, in my opinion, back where they belonged. I kept those rebellious foreshadowing evils in my revision.  The following is an example:

With Foreshadowing:

After supper, Laura cleared the table and put the dishes in the sink to wash them. The summer storm had passed and in its wake was a beautiful evening.  It helped Laura to forget about the nightmare that still haunted her.  At the kitchen window above the sink, Laura watched as the first star of twilight became visible. It was the Dog Star, Sirius; the star that guided wayfaring sailors home from turbulent seas. “I wish, I wish” said Laura, that I could fly up to the planets and discover the world my parents knew, my home, somewhere up there. Laura had no way of knowing how prophetic her words would become and the danger therein.

Without Foreshadowing:

After supper, Laura cleared the table and put the dishes in the sink to wash them. The summer storm had passed and in its wake was a beautiful evening.  It helped Laura to forget about the nightmare that still haunted her.  At the kitchen window above the sink, Laura watched as the first star of twilight became visible. It was the Dog Star, Sirius; the star that guided wayfaring sailors home from turbulent seas. “I wish, I wish” said Laura, that I could fly up to the planets and discover the world my parents knew, my home, somewhere up there.

Come what may, I will live with this decision. Of course, if anyone out there has  some sage words of instruction, I would love to know how other writers have handled this perplexing problem!

9 thoughts on “Foreshadowing – how much is too much?

  1. With foreshadowing felt deeper and more intriguing. Without felt a little flatter, not quite as interesting. They were both good, yet ‘with’ was my favorite. Not much help, just a voice.

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  2. I’m a fan of foreshadowing, but I agree it can be overused. While I was writing The Heaven Corporation, the first draft had a lengthy scene in it between two of the characters who, through the course of their discussion, revealed pretty much the entire rest of the plot and what was going on that my protagonist didn’t know. At the time, I thought it was fun to have the readers know the big secret and watch my protagonist try to figure it out, but during the editing process, I realised it was much more exciting for the reader to remain just as confused as the protagonist until everything was finally revealed to all the characters.

    It was hard to accept because I loved the dynamic between those two characters in that scene but they gave away the rest of the book right at the beginning. I ended up having to scrap the entire scene. It made a huge difference. The story had so much more suspense after that scene was cut out.

    I would say if the foreshadowing gives away too much too early, scrap it. If it’s too easy for the readers to figure out, scrap it. If it doesn’t give anything away but adds a bit of intrigue, then it’s probably a keeper.

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  3. i love this topic!
    My take on it is that subtle foreshadowing can be done with a symbolic object or occurence that hints at a later scene or deeper meaning…what is harder is the direct foreshadowing in your example (which I like). My first novel has the subtle form in. My second is in progress, and having read so much Stephen King, who uses blatent foreshadowings that are teasing spoilers in a way, and which hook you to read on with more passion, I’m determined to use them from now on. I am just getting ready to put my first in, near the end of my part one. I I can’t wait! I’d say the best of these more dramatic foreshadowings should take the reader by suprise and to trust your own judgment on quantity – too many would be a mistake though – maybe 2 or 3 per novel?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. Too many are too much. I think I still did too many for my first novel, but since it is a middle grade novel for 9-12 years they may have needed something a little more direct. They are a little slow on the more subtle clues, perhaps. But, I wouldn’t do it again, even for middle grade students. Great Comment! Thank you so much! Karen 🙂

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