Well, although this is a quick article about foreshadowing plot twists in comics, stories etc… I’ll have to start by using a TV show as an example.
As such, this article may contain some mild SPOILERS for the first season of “Game Of Thrones”. Likewise, I’ll also be describing a slightly disturbing scene from the show (albeit one that isn’t quite what it appears to be).
The night before I wrote this article, I started re-watching the first season of “Game Of Thrones” (with a plan to re-watch the first three seasons) and one of the things that really surprised me was the number of subtle clues about future parts of the story that I noticed in the early episodes. Most of these were really cleverly handled and they can probably teach us a lot about foreshadowing.
One of the best examples is in one of the early episodes where Daenerys Targaryen (an exiled princess who has been forced into an arranged marriage for political reasons by her scheming brother) is taking a bath after a particularly terrible day.
Just before she steps into the bath, one of her servants tries to warn her that the water is too hot – but she steps into it anyway, with only a weary expression on her face.
If you see this scene for the first time, then it comes across as a slightly disturbing visual symbol for Daenerys’ weariness and/or psychological pain. Perhaps even a visual metaphor for the fact that she’s in “hot water” due to the forced marriage.
However, when re-watching the episode, you’ll probably notice that Daenerys is completely unharmed by the hot water. This is something that just comes across as artistic licence unless, of course, you’ve seen the next episode where it’s revealed that she cannot be harmed by fire (a fact which becomes more important near the end of the season). It’s actually a very clever example of the show foreshadowing a later plot twist.
This, of course, made me think about how double meanings can be used to foreshadow plot twists in comics, books etc… Since all major plot twists have to be foreshadowed in some way or another, double meanings can be a very good way (out of many) to disguise these mandatory clues from your audience.
So, how do you do this?
Simply put, you need to know what your plot twist will be before you even start your story or comic.
Once you know what your plot twist is, try to think of any small knock-on effects that it might have on other things in your story. After all, the events that lead up to a plot twist don’t magically appear when the plot twist is revealed, they’re lurking in the background of the story for a long time before then.
Once you’ve found what some of these knock-on effects are, try to think of alternative explanations for them that make sense in the context of your story or comic. In subtle ways, try to trick your audience into taking this alternative interpretation instead.
Going back to the example I used earlier, Daenerys probably already knew that she couldn’t be harmed by high temperatures before she stepped into the bath (after all, she probably just considered it a “normal” part of life and has probably done it before). This is, of course, a “mundane” knock-on effect of the fact that she’s immune to fire.
However, the audience doesn’t see any of Daenerys’ thoughts – so, at first glance, it looks like she’s deliberately harming herself. Other than showing that Daenerys is physically unharmed by the water, the show does very little to contradict this interpretation.
So, yes, thinking of alternative explanations for some of the side-effects of your story or comic’s plot twist can be a very clever way to give the audience a few clues, whilst also misleading them at the same time.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂