Generally Speaking Novels Use Foreshadowing as a Literary Device

Woman in a storm

Welcome to the wide world of storytelling. Here, novelists spin their intricate narratives to seduce their audiences to read their stories to the end and to crave more. One way authors accomplish this is to use foreshadowing. Generally Speaking Novels use foreshadowing. These authors dip their virtual ink pens into one of the most magical tools in their arsenal to bring forth a great literary work. 

What exactly is foreshadowing? Let’s dig deeper into the concept:

Foreshadowing is a literary device that alludes to a later point in the story. For example, if a character mentions offhandedly that bad things always happen to them in autumn, then the observant reader will be alert when the leaves in the story begin to fall. Foreshadowing can be obvious or subtle, and when used effectively, it creates just enough anticipation or curiosity to keep the reader turning the pages. (Yamasaki) 

According to Yamasaki, foreshadowing, then, hints at future events but sidesteps revealing the plot. The hints are vague enough to create curiosity, yet strong enough to keep the reader committed. Not only is the reader committed through curiosity, but it encourages the reader to predict outcomes.

See more of what Yamasaki has to say about foreshadowing.

Picture this example: A story begins with the sun high in the sky, beaming proudly. A character goes to meet a long-lost friend in a cafe. By the time the character makes it there, thick dark clouds have gathered, and a blustery wind moves in so strongly that it pushes firmly against the door of the cafe, making it temporarily impossible to open. The reader can safely guess that the reunion will be troubled, as will much of the story.

Generally Speaking Novels Use Foreshadowing. Therfore, Let’s Look at Some Examples


In stories and movies, you’ll notice some masterful use of foreshadowing, some subtle, some not so subtle. Pay close attention to these examples from books. Remember, foreshadowing may come through narration as well as through dialogue.

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon: A screaming comes across the sky

1984 by George Orwell: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Paradise by Toni Morrison:  “They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time.”

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: “It was a pleasure to burn.”

Neuromancer by William Gibson: The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch: The Santa Anas blew in hot from the desert, shriveling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw.

The Crow Road by Iain Banks: It was the day my grandmother exploded.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground and start over. After burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too.

Generally Speaking Novels Use Foreshadowing  
and Also Use its Close Cousin, the Hook

Hook in writing

Writers use several literary devices in storytelling. Although his article focuses on foreshadowing, let’s not ignore another literary device similar to it known as the hook in writing.

A hook in writing piques a reader’s interest in an unusual way. What she reads, causes her to form questions in her mind. When she does, it suggests she’s becoming hooked, and as in foreshadowing, she may become invested enough to continue reading.

We’ve covered the hook in another article on this site. You can find it here: 

A Great Hook in Writing

The literary device of having a hook in writing is aimed at capturing the reader’s attention and not letting her off the hook. Foreshadowing sets the mood and gives a sneak peek at what is to come. Sometimes foreshadowing and the hook can be one of the same. See these three examples:

The Lonely Bones cover

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."

Notice that the title of the book itself is foreshadowing. It tells the reader that there will likely be bones in the story. While this sets an ominous mood, the first couple of sentences hooks the reader who immediately formulates questions in her mind: Who would kill a fourteen-year-old girl? What were the circumstances surrounding the murder? Did they catch the killer?

The Man Who Lived Underground

 The Man Who Lived Underground by Richard Wright

A steady breeze from the sea dried his sweaty shirt. Above him red and purple clouds hovered above the edges of apartment buildings. He neared a street intersection, paused, and looked at the slender roll of green bills clutched in his right fist; in the deepening gloam he counted his wages . . .

The hook is in the title, The Man Who Lived Underground. The reader might demand to know why someone would live underground, or what forces drove him to live there. In addition, the reader would be curious as to what it was like to live underground. The desire, of course, would get her to stick around long enough to find out. There is foreshadowing here, too, in his first few sentences. The clouds above him were red and purple. (Red can indicate anger while purple can indicate someone getting beaten. This emotion and a beating do happen in the story.) Further, the text indicates that there is a deepening gloam. 

Invisible Man cover

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison 

“I am an invisible man.” 

Here again, we have both foreshadowing and a hook. In foreshadowing, we expect to see, or at least read about, an invisible man. As with the hook, the reader will want to know how can there be an invisible man. What made him that way? What’s his story about?

Since we’ve explored literary devices, we can say that generally speaking novels use foreshadowing, as well as hooks. We see that these devices work hard to enhance the plot and ramp up the suspense to cloak the reader in mystery while toying with her emotions. 

You may want to know about these literary devices because you may be embarking on writing a story of your own. Or you may be among writers and want to take part in an engrossing discussion on storytelling. Either way, or for other reasons, know that foreshadowing and the hook give the story a haunting and memorable twist while making it easier for the reader to follow the narrative. 

Whatever your interest is in investing your time in studying these literary devices, you’ve made a wise choice.

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Yamasaki, Parker. “Foreshadowing in Writing: Definition, Tips, and Examples.” Grammarly, Grammarly, Nov. 2022,