1. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    Is foreshadowing necessary for a huge event in your story?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by GoldenFeather, Apr 25, 2015.

    I got to talking to another writer who mentioned she thinks foreshadowing is absolutely necessary for a huge twist in your story to not seem random or unprecedented, but...doesnt that defeat the purpose of a twist?

    A huge turn of events shouldnt be expected, thats why its called a "twist."

    What do you think?
     
  2. kfmiller
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    kfmiller Active Member

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    She probably meant it should be foreshadowed in the sense that after the twist, if the reader wants to, they can go back and find clues that lead up to it.

    To point to an obvious reference, The Sixth Sense, you can go back and see obvious foreshadowing like only Cole talks to Crowe. They shouldn't be obvious and can be done well, but if you don't include anything then it does seem like you just threw it in there for shock value and imo it feels cheap.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Nothing is "absolutely necessary." That's your first clue. :) It can be a fun thing to do, or, a shocking plot twist can be successful or none of the above, in my humble opinion of course.
     
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  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This makes good sense. A plot twist that snuck up on the reader is typically more interesting than one which is so out of the blue it has the feeling of deus ex machina.
     
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  5. Masked Mole
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    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    Golden Feather,
    I wouldn't say it's necessary. In my experience as a reader, I have had times where I felt like the foreshadowing was a bit cheap. If it is done well, it can be an incredible literary tool though. Dickens has a great scene of foreshadowing in A Tale of Two Cities. A wine casket spills out onto the street to illustrate the upcoming French Revolution.
    MM
     
  6. Void
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    Foreshadowing doesn't mean you have to give enough information for the reader to predict the twist. In fact, I'd say that doing so would be foreshadowing done wrong. Generally, foreshadowing should be subtle enough that the reader doesn't really notice it the first time round, or, if they do, they only realise it has any significance after the event it is foreshadowing.
     
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  7. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    I suppose my definition of foreshadowing is different. Foreshadowing, how I understand it, is giving clues to an upcoming event. For instance if someone is going to die soon, foreshadowing would mean there are subtle clues that his life is coming to an end.

    A regular twist, as I understand it, needs no foreshadowing, but happens because it makes sense to happen, and the reader simply didn't notice all the details that were in plain sight before. This to me isn't foreshadowing, but just proper structure and detail for a story. Kind of like in the Sixth Sense, there doesn't need to be "clues." We just see it for what it is and only realize what we were really looking at afterwards.

    I'm talking about the kind of foreshadowing that gives clues to a huge event that isn't predictable by any means, like the death of a character or the success/failure of something a character is trying to achieve. In this instance, do you think it's necessary to foreshadow?

    I'm curious to see everyone's methods. If it was up to me, I would have a character be hit by a car to their death, and I wouldn't foreshadow it because you can't see a sudden death and I feel it's unfair for a reader to get clues when in reality, anyone who dies suddenly isn't prepared, doesn't have clues and it's tragic and shocking. In order to recreate this emotion in a reader, I think foreshadowing might even be a slight cheat. Doesn't 'preparing' a character for a shock lessen the shock? That's not how it works in real life, which is what I try to achieve in my work: a realistic emotional experience. Would foreshadowing hinder that you think?
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2015
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  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think writers use a limited version of "realism". I mean, most people's lives are pretty boring 99% of the time. So even authors writing realistic fiction don't cover the characters' whole lives - we pick and chose the good stuff.

    We also generally try to form the book into something of a narrative structure, which is another thing that's pretty rare in people's real lives. A conflict, a series of events creating rising action leading to a climax and then a denoument? Real life is rarely that tidy.

    So, obviously you should write how you want. But if you're going for true realism, you're writing pretty experimental fiction.

    Which isn't to say you should never surprise or shock your readers. But I think you should do it for dramatic effect, not in the name of realism.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The difference between a cheap plot twist and a plausible but surprising reversal is a realization by the reader afterward that it was inevitable, or at least grows organically from the developing situation. Foreshadowing, in its purest form, is just one way to develop the conditions that create believability.

    True foreshadowing is a metaphor for the critical event, not just any detail that is a clue to that event. For example, colliding with a friend when turning a corner at work could foreshadow a devastating traffic collision later in the story. That is foreshadowing. So is meeting that person unexpectedly and saying, "I'm glad I ran into you!"

    Necessary? Hardly. But consider how memorable it becomes for the reader who re-reads the story, or who already anticipates the path the story is taking.

    However, a reversal "out of the blue" is generally less than satisfying. You're probably better off with no surprise turn at all.

    Twists are not necessary. A quality reversal can add a lot to a story, but you can have a great story without one.
     
  10. plothog
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    I think good foreshadowing isn't about preparing the character for the shock, but about making it look like the writer isn't making it up as they go a long.
    If a death is sudden, it can make it look like the writer suddenly decided they needed to introduce a death so hit a character with a car.
    Early on its less of a problem, but later on it can actually reduce tension. There's not so much point in worrying what will happen if the major turning points are random things that come out of nowhere.

    Foreshadowing doesn't really say what's going to happen. It just provides possibilities for things that could happen without seeming ridiculous.
    If I wanted to foreshadow someone being hit by a car, I might have a bit of description showing how bad the drivers are in this city, breaking at the last minute for traffic lights or something. To the reader it could just look like a bit of description, maybe I could make it look like I was trying to show a character's distaste for big cities. The subtlest foreshadowing will be things that are doing double duty and have other functions in the story. Even if a few people did work out it meant someone was going to get hit, they wouldn't know who or that it would it result in death. But the conditions have been met for increased likelihood of the event.
     
  11. jannert
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    That is a clear and sensible explanation for how foreshadowing works without giving the game away. As @plothog says, you should try to present the foreshadowing as if it has some other purpose. In this case, a description of the chaos of this city. So when somebody gets hit by a car, it's just 'one of those things.' It's less believable (but achievable—and intriguing) if the person gets knocked down and killed on a lonely road where the visibility is clear in both directions and cars only pass by about once per hour. Then you would need to make up a damn good reason for why that person was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and didn't see the car coming, or couldn't dodge it in time. I think this would certainly need to be foreshadowed in some way, so the reader doesn't go oh, come ON here....

    Foreshadowing can be done through tone. You can point the reader in the wrong direction, as the example above, where the traffic is descriptive of the chaos of the city. Get the reader thinking, oh, noise, stinky fumes, traffic jams ...and not about death at all. Then your twist can happen, and it makes sense.
     
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  12. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    In response to the above, this to me isn't foreshadowing. This is just logical. If someone gets hit by a car, it obviously need to happen in a place where there are roads, cars and there is a likelihood of a fatality this way. I don't see this as foreshadowing though, I see this as structure. The event has to make sense.

    Another poster mentioned "Maybe the two characters run into each other early on, and later get in a car accident." You see, the thing about that is it can be interpreted a million different ways. I've read works of fellow writers where I assumed one thing was a foreshadow, when the writer said "that wasn't intentional, but it totally makes sense."

    So to a degree I think it's very subjective. Many famous writers have mentioned that their works have been so deeply interpreted when that wasn't the intention, that they just wrote it literally about cars, or a vacation, or something else.

    The above mentioned to me isn't foreshadowing so much as symbolism perhaps. I would love some great example to refer to though, because I have a feeling how I see foreshadowing is slightly different than the dominant opinion of what foreshadowing is.
     
  13. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure it's necessary for an author to be consciously aware of the significance of an event in order for that event to be significant.

    I mean, when we write, a lot of what we put down comes from our subconscious or our emotions, right? We write characters that feel real to us, we shape the plot in a way that captures our imaginations, etc. So symbolism, foreshadowing, or other literary devices may be conscious inclusions on the part of the author, or they may have just felt right for some undetermined reason. It's the effect on the reader that matters, not the intention of the author.
     
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  14. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    ^ It's difficult to manage this. No two people ever read the same book. I feel like if we focus too much on the reader, we lose our ability to write. At least that's how I am. When I am too reader focused (made another thread about this) then I lose my ability to write truly as I want to, because I become self conscious of how a reader will react.
     
  15. BayView
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    I'm not sure that's the conclusion I'd come to, though. I mean, you're right, the book we produce is different for everyone, so to me, that suggests there's no point in micromanaging the effect on the reader. So I'd say we should keep the reader in mind on the big stuff (like making sure the middle of the book doesn't get soggy, making sure our writing is clear, etc.) but then just trust ourselves for the rest. There's no point trying to control the uncontrollable, right?
     
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  16. GoldenFeather
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    Absolutely. Thank you for this!
     
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