102 – Stories of Skilled Foreshadowing

The Mythcreant Podcast

What’s this? The Mythcreants Podcast is joined by a new guest host, and he just appeared out of nowhere! This week, Wes joins Oren and Chris to discuss works with strong foreshadowing — or at least that was the plan. Our hosts manage to get just a little past the halfway point before they also start talking about stories with bad foreshadowing, just to provide some contrast, of course. They examine the different facets of foreshadowing and how it is applied in both old words and new. They consider how POV affects foreshadowing and then lay down some foreshadowing of their own regarding next week’s episode. Of course you’ll have to listen to find out what it is.

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Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

Three Parts Dead

Araby by James Joyce

Lord of the Rings

Harry Potter

Fahrenheit 451, which Bradbury wrote on a 20 cents/hour rental typewriter.


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  1. Fay Onyx

    I liked the example of believability foreshadowing in Harry Potter. In addition to making the climax believable it plays several other roles in making the climax better by adding drama (we know Voldemort is trying to kill Harry when he casts the killing curse) and just making it intelligible (we understand what the characters are trying to do with minimal explanation, this also helps pacing).

  2. Fay Onyx

    I would also be interested on thoughts about how foreshadowing interacts with something that is supposed to be a surprise to the character and reader.

    For example, let’s say that in the middle of a book Mia gets unexpectedly laid off from her job after her boss promised her that her job was secure. Is having several instances of her boss promising her that her job is secure foreshadowing? It is necessary information to really understand and empathize with her response, but I’m not sure if I’d call it foreshadowing.

    Let’s say that this is a pivotal moment in the book and the author wants the reader to feel upset with her and to really feel like this came out of nowhere.

    I feel that any foreshadowing that her boss is lying or the company isn’t doing well would change change the audience’s perception of her as we would feel in retrospect that she isn’t very perceptive or maybe should have known, which isn’t the goal. And what if this is supposed to feel really unfair because the company has record profits and she was doing well at her job?

    • Chris Winkle

      That’s a good query. In general, events that increase conflict don’t need the same level of foreshadowing as those that resolve it, so in the case of Mia losing her job in a situation that is supposed to feel out of the blue, I’m not sure it would need foreshadowing to make it more believable. If you could slip in something that wouldn’t be recognized for what it was until after, maybe a disgruntled former employee whose dislike of the workplace is attributed to something else, that could be better, but I think that’s a situation that’s believable without hints.

      • Fay Onyx

        That’s an interesting idea that good things and resolutions need more foreshadowing than bad things. It does make me wonder what that says about our culture and our lives, but it does make sense that the victory needs to feel earned.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Yeah I think this is something that would want tension foreshadowing rather than believability foreshadowing. If it’s pivotal to the story, then maybe show several times how much Mia’s family depends on her income, and how bad things would be without that pay check.

  3. Fay Onyx

    It is also interesting for me to think about foreshadowing as a fairy tale writer because fairy tales do foreshadowing in specific ways and at times they also have an absence of it such as characters going on a journey and discovering bizarre and unexpected things.

    Because fairy tales have certain predictable or repetitive structures, these alone can do foreshadowing (things come in threes, a gullible character will always fall for tricks no matter how many times the same person tricks them, etc).

    Fairy tales also has limited detail that make described things really stick out, so simply the presence of detail can be foreshadowing. You know the strange gift a character is given from a mysterious helper is going to get used. This means that pretty much anything described in detail is going to come back.

    That is also something to be careful of when writing modern fairy tales where more description is given; readers still have expectations about fairy tale foreshadowing. If the writer describes something in detail readers will expect it to be foreshadowing that that thing will come back and they will be disappointed if it doesn’t.

  4. Leon

    How can you discuss foreshadowing and not mention Gunnerkrigg Court?

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