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What sort of a literary technique is it when writers narrating their story in the present time (in first person) talk of an incident that happens to them in the future? I recently read a non-fiction book where the author was talking about her sister and said her sister met a man XYZ whom she would marry in three years.
Such a narrative feels very unnatural to me. How often do authors write like that in fiction or is it limited to non-fiction?

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It's called foreshadowing and it's common in fiction. Sometimes the future events are just hinted at or suggested (for example, the gun described in the first chapter later becomes the murder weapon), other times they are explicitly spelled out (as in your example).

If the book has a first person narrator, you would usually only see explicit foreshadowing if it is written memoir style (with the implication that the person is narrating from a vantage point after all the events of the book has taken place).

If done well, it's an effective way to shape audience expectations. However, it can definitely be done badly. I once read a book that I found compelling largely because it was a cozy family drama, but the writer foreshadowed major tragedies on the first page. The addictive part of the book was wondering how things would go wrong. But the book ended without anything bad actually happening. It felt like a cheat.

  • The book I read was non fiction. According to my understanding, the author wasn't telling her sister would marry a certain person to get back to it later in the story. It was a statement made, in that way. Does that still count as foreshadowing? – Suhasini Sep 1 '15 at 5:24
  • Personally, I would think it still counts as foreshadowing even if the author never returns to the topic. – Chris Sunami Sep 1 '15 at 12:39
  • This is not what I would call foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is a subtle hint at something important that is to come later, not an explicit statement like this. – TheNovelFactory Apr 6 '17 at 10:15
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I once ended a story with a flash-forward, where the character imagined what would happen in her future. I used that as the ending of the story.

This is not foreshadowing since it doesn't predict an event that happens later in the story.

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