Editing Rant: Foreshadowing

Photo by Jose Francisco Morales on Unsplash

I hate foreshadowing used to build tension. After reading over 200 slush submissions this year, I find they are common device, used as a lazy writer’s tension builder.

The formula is:

  1. Describe the situation (ie, infodump the worldbuilding)
  2. Introduce the character
  3. End the opening chapter with “But the character doesn’t know what is about to hit them.”

You don’t need to tell us what is about to happen. Don’t be the news where they open the news with “Big Developments in X”, story soon. Then as they go to break, “X had Big Developments today.” Coming back from the commercials. “Huge Changes for X.” Eventually the news program gives a one minute segment on the topic. They spent more time pushing the story than on the story itself. That is what tension created through foreshadowing feels like.

Yes, foreshadowing – WHEN USED WELL – is a great device. But it’s best integrated into the story through a seer or someone within the story hinting at the future.

Don’t have the Narrator go “just you wait!!! This is going to be great!”

That is telling, not showing.

Don’t be formalistic, don’t create artificial tension, and don’t reveal major plot points by telling before you show us. And really, really don’t do this as the hook for the first chapter. Please!

Related Posts: Artificial Crisis (1/12/21)