At a little over seven pages this is one of the longest sections in the book. In it Hills lays out all the techniques that can be used to foreshadow the events of a story, and in so doing provides a checklist by which any author might plan and execute a story so as to increase both a sense of uncertainty and inevitability in the reader.
in description. A passage describing the place where action in a story is about to take place establishes the setting, but the description can also be colored so as to evoke a mood appropriate to the action that follows.
So: description of setting + mood = foreshadowing of action. Is this not a good thing to know? Is this not exactly the kind of thing you might want to think about when you’re conceptualizing a story, or revising your first draft? I’ll grant that technical relationships like this are often acted on at a subconscious level, but wouldn’t it be great to be able to consciously appeal to aspects of craft like this when you get into trouble?
As I’ve already noted, it’s rare for anyone responding to a writer’s work to point out the causal relationship between a failed effect and the inadequate preparation for that effect. Understanding the relationships between all of the possible methods of foreshadowing provides you with both a framework for creation and analysis.
As an aside, note that when Hills touches on theme he does so in very much the same way that Thomas McCormack does in his liberating essay, originally entitled Axing Theme. Here’s Hills:
Explicitness of theme seldom occurs in a story: a story will be much more than any “moral” that can be abstracted from it.
It’s not an accident that Hills and McCormack were both editors. It’s not an accident that they both put the effects of craft choices ahead of the kind of clinical assessment favored by too many critics and academics. To read this section of Hills’ book is to be reminded again and again that what you’re trying to do with craft is not demonstrate craft, but achieve an intended effect.
The idea that foreshadowing — of any type — is a direct method of creating reader interest in the moment and reader satisfaction in retrospect strikes me as one of the most useful observations anyone could possibly make about the craft of storytelling.
Next up: Foreshadowing and Suspense.
— Mark Barrett