I’m not much of a TV person. There are a few shows I’ve gotten into over the years, but for the most part, it takes quite a bit to keep my attention.
My husband is the total opposite.
The latest show he’s started watching is Sons of Anarchy. He asked me to watch the pilot episode with him and I agreed. I’d heard lots of good things about the show and there was certainly a lot of stir among my friends on Facebook when the series wrapped up.
That first episode lived up to expectations, but for one glaring thing: the blatant foreshadowing that I picked up on almost immediately. In a way, it’s almost ruined the show for me, because I was 99% sure I was right (and my good friend, who’s seen all 7 seasons, confirmed my suspicions). Why bother watching now that I know this major plot piece that will shake everything up?
All of this begs the question: what makes good foreshadowing?
In his post on the importance of foreshadowing, Larry Brooks of StoryFix 2.0 describes it as
Anything that links to, or reveals a glimpse of, or a hint about, a forthcoming story point or issue of characterization, but without yet being a salient story point itself in the moment it is revealed.
It can be blatant or subtle. Brooks uses a cooking analogy — if it’s blatant, you know what’s cooking (i.e., spaghetti). If not, you know something is cooking.
Then there’s the importance of it. If you want your foreshadowing to be noticed, Brooks says to attach emotion to it (i.e., smells good or stinky). To keep it subtle, just let it slide by.
I’ve been thinking a lot about foreshadowing in my own story, especially now that I’m editing. I actually don’t think I have the problem of being too subtle. Quite the opposite, in fact. I am so darned heavy-handed with some of my foreshadowing that I feel like I’m standing next to the reader with a baseball bat, whacking them every time I drop a hint, saying, “Didja get that? Huh? Huh?!?”
Clearly subtlety is something I have to work on.
Then there’s the issue of what I’m foreshadowing, which I think is too much. I recall from our McDaniel days being told that if you make things too easy for the reader, there’s no motivation to keep reading. This bit of heavy-handed foreshadowing in SoA is a perfect example. Why should I continue watching?
I think I have much more to learn about the fine art — and yes, I definitely think it’s an art — of foreshadowing. What examples can you think of where you were either hit over the head too hard with it, or it was so subtle and well-done you only discovered it on a second (or third) visit?