Foreshadowing is a suggestion of something to come that the writer did not know at the time of the story and that the reader still does not know.
Ultimately, of course, every memoir MUST be factual and it MUST adhere to the life being written about.
A memoir is definitely NOT fiction, and the writer must NOT succumb to fiction to get over the hard spots or “to make it more interesting”—as one of my workshoppers said when challenged about what seemed obviously a piece of fiction inserted into his memoir.
This fiction prohibition does not mean that a memoirist cannot use fiction techniques. In fact, fiction techniques like foreshadowing are at our disposal to make a memoir more interesting.
Examples of foreshadowing
When you read, “I little knew what this would mean to me later when I applied for college,” the writer is using foreshadowing. There is no fiction making here, but there is a use of a fiction technique.
The same is true if the writer were to write, “She was not to prove so helpful later at a crucial time when I needed her.”
Foreshadowing is an effective technique to keep the reader reading. At its best, it piques the reader’s curiosity to read on. At its worst, it gives away an element of the story.
“He would help me in ways I could not fathom at this time” is effective foreshadowing.
“He was to lend me the money I needed to have the surgery I required and so everything turned out all right” is ineffective foreshadowing—it’s a spoiler really. Better to string the reader along for a while with foreshadowing as you—and your readers—wonder if you will be able to gather the funds to have surgery.
People sometimes wonder what the difference between foreshadowing and suspense is. To read about suspense, click here.
Read the posts below and begin to insert foreshadowing into your memoir.
People will sometimes suppose that only big drama can make an interesting memoir. Of course, there are many readers who require constant titillation if they are to remain reading. Perhaps they are not the readers you should be seeking for your memoir. Nonetheless, nearly all readers require some attention to “interesting.”
No, I do not believe that it is the scope of the drama of your memoir that is the crucial element to creating interest. Some would-be memoir-writers get discouraged by the ordinariness of their lives. Yet, I have found that almost everyone I have had a serious conversation with about memoir writing had enough happen in their lives to fashion an interesting memoir.
An interesting memoir: drama vs. dramatic story development?
Much more important than the inherent drama of an action is the dramatic development of your story.