Monday, April 17, 2006

Foreshadowing 4

Foreshadow by using the "Had-I-but-known" device to draw the reader through an otherwise dull scene, the significance of which will be apparent later. Use the author's voice or a character's voice, or show by the character's actions that he is unaware of the significance of a choice or event. You can even use this device to foreshadow surprise.

Had Leroy known who the man was, he would have known that he was about to make the biggest mistake of his life.

Remember that foreshadowing promises something. Always keep the promise.

Correction: In fiction always keep that promise. Fiction is more honest than the news, which has adopted fiction-writing techniques to hook an audience. The news media foreshadow constantly and for the same reason fiction writers do = to create suspense that keeps the reader or viewier turning the pages, buying the publication, or tuning in again tommorrow.

This is why so much of the news is speculation rather than facts. News writers increase ratings/circulation (and advertizing rates) by giving short shrift to facts about any current event and a long airing of speculation about what might happen next or what some entity would do if this or that happened in the future. Thus the news has become a kind of "weather" forecast that creates suspense by giving people something to worry about. "Story" questions like those in fiction that keep readers tuning in again tommorow for the answers.

Which never come.

The most glaring example of this that you can see almost every day is at the BBC. Hardly a day passes that the BBC doesn't foreshadow some disaster or downfall for the United States and/or the administration. For example, daily, for years they have foreshadowed one humanitarian disaster after another in Afghanistan and Iraq. They hype anti-American expectations of such things. But the "promise" in such foreshadowing has (thankfully) never been kept. Every time one prophesy of doom and gloom fails to come true, the BBC just gives birth to another. Check it out: the BBC has been foreshadowing civil war in Iraq for months now. Day after day after day.

You can't get away with that in honest fiction though. You must produce what you foreshadow. Otherwise the reader will get mad and never buy another novel by you again.

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