I love foreshadowing in all its guises. When done subtly it can be masterful. But I have a special fondness for it where it appears in shamelessly unsubtle form – and, in fact, ceases to even be foreshadowing but is, instead, a direct reveal of something that will happen. The Rules Police would frown on such authorly intrusion, I know.
In this extract it’s totally unsubtle. I’m thinking of having a few similar scattered here and there in the early chapters. Elsewhere I’ve gone for the more subtle approach, which I don’t have any doubts about, but I’m curious to know how others see this unsubtle form.
In this example, where it appears in the novel, only the characters of Aelita and the earl are known to the reader – the others are being mentioned for the first time. This extract morphs into a scene where George tries to dominate a meeting of the town committee – the reader therefore meets him knowing in advance he’s going to kill the barmaid at some later point… but not knowing why.
Is it too much? Does it irritate or intrigue?? Any comments welcome!
In The Anchor, Lizzy uncorks a bottle of red and winks, pointing towards its twin, a third-full and already open on the counter.
“That’s probably off,” she says to Aelita. “I’ll give it Boswell, he won’t mind.”
The indiscriminate drinker, Boswell, is a town character. Nobody knows his real name or, indeed, whether ‘Boswell’ might just be it. He claims to have a home but spends few hours in it – certainly not long enough to bathe, change or pass any time with the wife he also says exists. Each day is, instead, a rhythmic shuffle through town, stopping to chat where conversation can be found, gravitating ultimately to The Happy Haddock where he eats dinner alone. At nine o’clock he’s at The Anchor. Locals keep time by him. Once in the pub, he buys himself one large glass of house wine and chances the rest of the evening’s drinking to luck.
Aelita knows Lizzy with the usual illusion of familiarity that comes of these things. She couldn’t give a reference beyond cheerful, hard-working and talkative, but doubts Lizzy will ever need one. The barmaid is as much a part of the pub as the flotsam hanging from its walls – the select pieces of broken boat, the stretches of netting, the framed photographs of those who once laboured even longer hours, out there, on the dark unforgiving sea. Everyone and no-one knows Lizzy, just as they know these other familiar objects yet cannot say where they came from or where they’ve been.
When George Delaney furiously beats this popular girl to death, her last thought will be of Bertie Boyde – Lord Belafry, thirteenth earl – her secret lover for some eight years. The final cloudy image in her mind will be his kind face, his smile, his affection, his sweetness. She is very fond of him.
“George is on top form,” she says now, just a barmaid with no past.
“Who’s he with?”
“The other one.”
The rear snug is used for committee meetings. George’s voice reaches Aelita a fraction before the contents of his pipe – tobacco imported specially, and described by him with its plum and wood-smoked undertones as though it were fine wine. The room is small and not suited to heavy fragrance. This pungent fog, combined as it is with his mistress’s perfume, sets the real agenda. George only ever brings Lucinda when on the attack.
11 Replies to “A singular sense of impending calamity…”
I've never heard of foreshadowing before to be honest but sounds good to me. Makes you want to read on, plus makes the reader feel in on it, makes you really feel for Lizzy and depise George. Makes you want top know why he kills her. Really looking forward to reading this.
Thanks! You'd recognise it in films in varying degrees of subtlety – like the character who unwittingly drops or forgets something, camera pans onto object and thus we know it was important in some way etc. but they are oblivious to having dropped/forgotten it… that sort of thing.
Oh, I love foreshadowing too. It is an important tool we use to keep the reader interested in what will happen next. And I don't mind this a bit–in fact I like it. As long as this novel isn't a "who-done-it" and you've not given away the murderer then why not? On another topic, however, I think you should use "barmaid" instead of "Lizzy" in the first line if is the first time we read about her. "In The Anchor, the barmaid uncorks a bottle of red and winks, pointing towards its twin, a third-full and already open on the counter." I was a little confused at the beginning and I think that would remedy it. Then mention her name later on in this excerpt. Looking forward to reading more!
i think the tone and placing of the foreshadowing is spot on and adds what you'd hope to the narration; confidence, charisma etc. i'd be careful with the detail however. mention of Lizzy's affair so close to her reference to George's is a little confusing on first read. and while it's sometimes good to make the reader go back over a passage or line, you have to pick your fights…i agree with the lizzy/barmaid bit an' all; and would consider losing the 'just a barmaid with no past'; for me, this interferes with the rhythm and flow of the piece. then again, it it's never easy reading an extract out of context…
Oh, thanks folks… yes, the lizzy/barmaid thing – will clarify that. Not a murder mystery, so it's fine for the reader to know George killed her from the off – only the other characters need be in the dark about that. Am glad nobody's said "oh I hate it – writer's voice interrupts" type of thing as that was what had concerned me. I've seen it done in books I've enjoyed and don't have an issue myself, but I suspected many people would. Thanks!
Nice shock. Do you need to actually identify the murderer by name? Seems more like foretelling than foreshadowing. Just a thought.
Ah, that's it – foretelling! I knew there was another word for when foreshadowing goes too far, but had a total blank when I tried to think what it was.I don't *need* to identify him – though as the story isn't about working out who killed the barmaid, it's not spoiling anything to let the reader know who dunnit. But it's more a case of just wanting to throw in a few of these foretelling snippets to see how it works out – a stylistic experiment, I suppose – but if people recoil in horror then I'd rethink.
I have one or two such interesting intrusions in my story, and I remember now, they came totally out of the blue when I wrote them, which makes me think it was divine intervention :)best to trust these intuitions then.
i think it works fine although out of context who really knows – the point here is that a lot of intro's are being made, as well as the foreshadowing of george furiously beating lizzy to death – lucinda, lizzy, george and boswell all new chars we meet here for fdirst time. no reason that shouldnt work of course but it does depend on what surrounds this passage…
I love this technique…you know what it reminds me of a bit? Historical fiction that has been written very well, almost as a mystery, like "Devil in the White City." I think if it's done right (such as here), it doesn't take away any suspence but actually builds it. The trick, of course, is not to give away too much or take away from a major mystery or something unresolved that is pulling the whole thing along. But I think these little intrusions are very effective, almost titillating especially with a gruesome detail such as this. I appreciate a narrator with full command of the story; I'm ready to put trust in him/her.
Sandie have you ever read anything by /about Vladmir Propp and narrative in folk tales? One of the main things that stuck in my head was that in narratives there is usually some kind of warning given by somebody early on. Seems like foretelling/foreshadowing is that sort of thing but done by the narrator. In a way it's much more satisfying having a narrator do it instead of say, some old bloke in the pub saying to lizzy " watch that george he's a wrong un"