Two Spears in Creative Writing: Foreshadowing & Flashbacking (Part 1)

Joe Baldwin, a US-based article writer pens this wonderful article on Foreshadowing and Flashbacking techniques of writing. Here’s the first part on Foreshadowing. 

Every aspiring creative writer puts a premium on significant details to better describe the persona of their protagonists, or why their antagonists played the villain. Foreshadowing and flashbacking techniques aim to fuel your reader’s interest, rendering them grounded on their sofas; hence, making your knife stabbing scene or short reminiscence of past story occurrences more impactful and mind-boggling.


I get it. You may still be wondering how lame horror movies make loads of money. However, every film director of these movies makes sure that the rising action and climax are intensified by clues and hints from recent actions or happenings. Shifting it to writing, particularly creative writing, the art of giving context clues to what will transpire next or to be able to build tension is coined as foreshadowing.

If this is your first time encountering this literary term, here is a particular example I personally devised for your perusal:

He lurked in the shadows, contemplating about taking the old man’s life or sparing it. He slowly walked past the street cones, visibly disordered, as he approached the luxurious Bentley saloon that is about to halt. With his knife hidden in his torn jacket’s pocket, he surged towards the man abandoned by his security personnel. His raged eyes, sweaty panting, and the dire need to save his kin from cancer were all ready to put a horrific end to the seemingly innocent, unsuspecting prey.

joe baldwinThe scene we are trying to place on the reader’s mind is this: a desperate, paid assassin is about to kill a rich corporate official. While you are always welcome to write this in the simplest terms possible, you can run the extra mile by putting descriptive words that portray your ideas based on how you exactly want them to appear. My intensifiers (lurked, disordered, surged, raged) and the exact car brand I used (Bentley saloon) revealed the exact emotion, state of mental being, and life position I wanted to put vivid colours to the text—desperation.

Here are four of the many instances where foreshadowing can be used for giving in-text hints:

  1. Naming an upcoming event (e.g., lunch at Domino’s, papal visit at 5 P.M.)
  2. Introductory scene (e.g., airplane engine malfunctions, a bar encounter of two rivals)
  3. Plot twist triggers
  4. Presence or absence of perceived essentials – pistol, fuel meter close to ‘E’, empty flask of medicines.

However, you should know when to foreshadow, since readers can feel fatigued if you continuously put lengthy, expressive descriptions in succession. I actually use foreshadowing in situations requiring a heartfelt attack of human emotions (i.e., fear, joy, excitement, desperation, or love); to amplify the situation and give signs for possible occurrences in the story as it progresses.

To build suspense, foreshadowing is used to set the expectations of readers for the next events in the storyline. It could be in the form of tangible items or mental images, but never foreshadow with the aim of just showing off. It should suggest a cause of action and make a difference in the story rather than just being mentioned. If you put an explosive material in your fiction, then it must either explode later or be stopped from such by unexpected or surprising twists, leading to a more heightened consummation.

It takes a considerable amount of time to hone your skills in foreshadowing, considering that relevant details are vital in this process. But, with careful planning of your outline structure, incorporating revisions, and sheer determination to improve your writing, you can more than make up for lack of experience.

joeAbout the Author:

Joe Baldwin is a native US resident & professional Article writer for Essay Look. He studied English literature and creative writing. He has experience with online web content including blogs, web page content, news, public relations, press releases, and long form sales and industrial presentations.



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