Skip to content

F is for … Foreshadowing

I’m late posting this week; things have been busy, and the blog post I thought I’d be publishing this week isn’t happening yet (but will be something to look forward to in the future, I hope!).


I’ve also had some brilliant news: I had a telephone interview yesterday with one of the tutors at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Writing School and have been offered a place on their MFA in Creative Writing, starting September. I’m so excited! I’m also terrified I won’t measure up.

Once I submitted the application, I tortured myself for two weeks. If you write, you’ll know what I mean. From the moment I sent off the paperwork (containing a writing sample, book review, reference and personal statement), I started to doubt everything. One moment I’d think, ‘this is a good sample of my work,’ and the next I’d think, ‘Who wrote this rubbish? They’re going to laugh me out the door!’ I seriously considered asking if I could withdraw and submit again.

Luckily, I didn’t. The tutor I spoke with liked my writing, and, after a brief chat, offered me a place! Now I just have to wait for the official offer.

Did I mention I was excited?


Right, now that’s out of the way, let’s get to this week’s post.


You may have heard the term before. In a nutshell, foreshadowing is where you drop clues in the story about something significant that will happen later. Usually, the clues are subtle, so that the reader might not think anything of them until the important event happens and then – if you’ve done a good job – they’ll say ‘Oh yes! I should have seen that coming!’

Sometimes, the writer will try to disguise foreshadowing by misdirection. They might have the main characters dismiss something as impossible and never going to happen, but then, of course, it does.

Or they may use nature. Nothing says there’s trouble ahead like a raging storm, or animals acting oddly.

The trick is to make the foreshadowing innocuous enough for the reader to absorb it as background detail, or worldbuilding if it’s speculative fiction. Details that seem minor and vaguely interesting at the time we read them, are rendered pivotal at the novel’s climax. Or at least they should. There’s a fine line between innocuous and forgettable. Don’t make your foreshadowing too noticeable or you’ll puncture the suspense you’ve so carefully built, and don’t make it too unnoticeable or it won’t give the reader that ‘Oh, of course!’ feeling later.


In Lord of the Rings, Tolkein foreshadows the climax at Mount Doom:

‘Pity? It’s a pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play in it, for good or evil, before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.’

In ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, Harper Lee foreshadows the novel’s main story arc.

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. Itโ€™s when you know youโ€™re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.

What are your favourite foreshadowing moments?





11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Gillian Kidd #

    Congratulations and well done, that’s fantastic news xx

    April 24, 2018
    • C. J. Jessop #

      Thank you! Can’t wait for September! ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

      April 24, 2018
  2. Love the Foreshadowing, but your news at the University is simply awesome! Congratulations, Professor!!

    April 25, 2018
    • C. J. Jessop #

      Thanks Katie! Not quite professor but I will hopefully be able to teach writing at the end of it! ๐Ÿ™‚

      April 25, 2018
  3. Congrats on the acceptance, Cheryl. I’m feeling kind of jealous right now! And great post on foreshadowing. It’s crucial when a writer doesn’t want things to feel like their popping out of the blue. ๐Ÿ™‚

    May 2, 2018
    • C. J. Jessop #

      Thanks, Diana! I’m pretty excited, that’s for sure. Can’t wait to get the reading list and start work. I’m glad you liked the foreshadowing post. Yes, crucial. And something that can be done once the first draft is down (I should have mentioned). I’m always going back and foreshadowing things that came to light as I wrote. ๐Ÿ™‚

      May 2, 2018
      • That’s one of the main things I note when writing the first draft – what I need to go back and foreshadow. Great point. ๐Ÿ™‚
        And congrats again. You’re going to have a blast. ๐Ÿ™‚

        May 2, 2018
  4. Congratulations!
    Great K.I.S.S. on one of the more difficult parts of writing for me. After reading your and D. Wallace Peach’s comments, I feel better knowing that dropping these readers’ breadcrumbs come after I have experienced the journey myself; making it so I can focus on where to put what. Thanks for sharing.

    May 10, 2018
    • C. J. Jessop #

      Thank you Sabrina! I’m very excited, I’m sure you can tell.

      I like the reference to dropping breadcrumbs. It’s a lot like that, isn’t it. ๐Ÿ˜Š

      May 10, 2018
    • C. J. Jessop #

      I tried to visit your blog but couldn’t connect. I’ll try again later in case there’s an issue.

      May 10, 2018

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. O is for … “Oh no, whose bright idea was it to use the alphabet for a weekly blog series? – Off With the Fairies

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: