Cheyenne Sedai

Foreshadowing and what I've learnt from its use in fantasy

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This is an article I wrote a couple of months back about foreshadowing in fantasy. It is one of my favorite topics to talk about, as evidenced by this, and how I immediately jumped to the chance of being on the Dusty Wheel's episode on foreshadowing. I'd love to discuss it with all of you, and hear your opinions on the topic.  
 

Copy_of_Foreshadowing.pdf

Edited by Cheyenne Sedai
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1 hour ago, Cheyenne Sedai said:

This is an article I wrote a couple of months back about foreshadowing in fantasy. It is one of my favorite topics to talk about, as evidenced by this, and how I immediately jumped to the chance of being on the Dusty Wheel's episode on foreshadowing. I'd love to discuss it with all of you, and hear your opinions on the topic.  
 

Copy_of_Foreshadowing.pdf

Hmm. I agree that some of the best foreshadowings are ones that are hidden in plain sight, and the methods BS uses are quite interesting (I did not read the Wheel of Time section, I still need to get on that). He puts it in places where we either do not take it seriously or we think it is one of many things and has no particular significance. The latter is incredibly useful as even if the reader is aware of that method, it will still take a while to discover the pattern being foreshadowed.

I've always viewed foreshadowing like a puzzle, where you give little bits and pieces to make parts of it and you can kinda make it out, but there is still too much missing, and then the reveal finishes the puzzles and how everything fits together.

Another method of foreshadowing that is more character-based is an event that will happen in the future taking place earlier but on a much smaller scale. I don't have any specific examples on the top of my head, but if your conclusion is to have your main character order the deaths of people in a rage, you'll want to have moments where the main character gets angry and loses control, and have them keep escalating, from a fight, to an injury, to them killing someone, to the big reveal as they order a slaughter. there are no hidden pieces here, we can see how their rage affects them and how they act because of it, but it is still foreshadowing an event.

Also hi, what do you write?

Edited by Aspiring Writer
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@Cheyenne Sedai Interesting article :-)

I think if one really wants to learn foreshadowing it is best to look to Agatha Christie and her novels. They are mystery and detective stories, but they are also useful to study even when writing in other genres. Harry Potter is also a great example of fantasy mystery, with lots of little twists cleverly sprinkled in the story.

Fas est et ab hoste doceri, and mystery fiction isn't even the enemy, yet still it is something to learn from.

Thanks for your own insights :-)

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9 hours ago, Aspiring Writer said:

Another method of foreshadowing that is more character-based is an event that will happen in the future taking place earlier but on a much smaller scale. I don't have any specific examples on the top of my head, but if your conclusion is to have your main character order the deaths of people in a rage, you'll want to have moments where the main character gets angry and loses control, and have them keep escalating, from a fight, to an injury, to them killing someone, to the big reveal as they order a slaughter. there are no hidden pieces here, we can see how their rage affects them and how they act because of it, but it is still foreshadowing an event.

Also hi, what do you write?

I really like that one too. This wasn't meant to be extensive by any means, on my reread of Mistborn I've already noticed so much I missed the first time around. As for what I write, I generally go to original high fantasy. Slowly working on my second novel, though the first was actually on the long side of a Novella. 

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2 hours ago, Ixthos said:

Fas est et ab hoste doceri, and mystery fiction isn't even the enemy, yet still it is something to learn from.

Definitely. Book snobbery isn't worth it, and there's always something you can learn from other genres. 

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I actually find the foreshadowing through visions and stuff in Wheel of Time (and other stories) to be a bit trite or on the nose. Most of the time they're just vague pieces of symbolic imagery that don't actually give enough information to use actively in riddling out future events. The scene they relate to simply happens and I usually just go "huh, well I guess the author used an outline, good job", but I don't feel as involved with it as much with Sanderson style foreshadowing where you gradually get pieces of information that eventually come together with a punch. I think part of the subtle difference between those two styles is that those visions (when they're not so on the nose that they give away future events completely) only foreshadow that an event IS going to happen in the book, as opposed to the other style which gives you the information to piece together WHAT is going to happen. The issue I have with the first is that it's unnecessary to foreshadow that something is going to happen. It's a story; of course something is going to happen. And knowing enough about how stories are structured means I know pretty much when in the book something is going to happen so it makes it redundant.

Which is not to say I think Jordan's foreshadowing is bad, he does plenty of stuff beyond the visions that I really enjoy. My favourite piece of foreshadowing in all of WoT was that Mat would give up half the light of the world to save the world, because it was a riddle I could work on puzzling out before the Tower of Genjei sequence occurred.

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6 hours ago, Kureshi Ironclaw said:

Sanderson style foreshadowing where you gradually get pieces of information that eventually come together with a punch.

Yeah, I agree that the visions can be on the nose sometimes, but Jordan does a lot of what you call the 'Sanderson style' foreshadowing too. Check out the Dusty Wheel episode on foreshadowing in the Eye of the World. There's a lot of that you won't notice on the first read and that took me by surprise when Mati or Badger brought it up.

 

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12 hours ago, Cheyenne Sedai said:

Yeah, I agree that the visions can be on the nose sometimes, but Jordan does a lot of what you call the 'Sanderson style' foreshadowing too. Check out the Dusty Wheel episode on foreshadowing in the Eye of the World. There's a lot of that you won't notice on the first read and that took me by surprise when Mati or Badger brought it up.

 

Yeah Jordan definitely does a lot of the other type and I'm picking up on more of it in my current WoT reread. I'd hesitate to call it 'Sanderson style' foreshadowing as I don't think I could definitively attribute it to him. I think it's potentially more accurate to call it a 'modern' style of foreshadowing, but I don't have a lot of sources to support that. It just seems to correlate more with how foreshadowing is delivered in the current day as opposed to in stories from the last century and before. I'm talking even back to gothic/victorian era literature and myths where dreams and visions seemed to be a primary vehicle of foreshadowing; though again I don't have a bunch of sources.

Have you looked at the foreshadowing in Lord of the Rings at all? I'd be curious to see how Tolkien's style matches up to Jordan and Sanderson and whether that shows any trends in the prevalence of different types of foreshadowing in fantasy.

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that's why I put it in quotes. And I haven't looked at the one in LoTR. It would be a really interesting thing to do. And I definitely agree that visions, prophecies and dreams were far more common in literature of that era, but I don't have many sources either. 

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