Today on Writer’s Glossary…
Foreshadowing is a cute little technical device some writers use to titillate the reader about a possible outcome. Different from a flashforward, which jumps the reader forward in time, this technique only hints at a possible outcome, and its arrival in a story does not automatically mean the something hinted at will materialise.
Foreshadowing can sometimes be mistaken for a red herring, but the latter is designed to deliberately mislead the reader, where as foreshadowing only suggests a future possibility. It’s an excellent technique to use in fiction, because a reader picking up on the hint will decide in their own mind what an outcome will be, and, whether they turn out to be right or wrong, there’s usually a payoff for them in either being right, or in the surprise they get when the narrative consolidates. It also gives the impression (right or wrong ;)) that the writer had taken great pains in plotting the story. As we know, that’s not always the case.