Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Foreshadowing, Telegraphing, Red Herrings & the Rule of Three in Fiction

I’ve wanted to do a post on foreshadowing for a while because it’s such a terrific way to enrich our writing. Along with this device are the literary cousins to foreshadowing: telegraphing, red herring, and the rule of three. So hang in there with me as I define, and share examples.


A clue (in the form of a visual or dialogue) that’s used in the present to set up action or one that is used to prepare for the future. That future action is often referred to as the payoff, especially in mystery or suspense stories.

Types of foreshadowing:

1. Connecting unrelated incidents.-Like a Seinfeld moment where one incident is connected to a seemingly unrelated incident that occurs later, which brings the story full circle.

2. Setting up future incidents.-This serves to assist the reader to easily accept or believe a future action or event without pulling them out of the story.  

3. Clues.-Laying the groundwork like a trail of birdseed and often building suspense at the same time. 

3. To emotionally invest and engage the reader in the story and or protagonist.-This leads to a huge reader emotional payoff later.

4. As a character trait.-This creates a motivation tool in the character that causes him to behave in an expected manner later in the story.

Of course, many of these types of foreshadowing opportunities overlap each other, which can make your story even stronger.

Clearly, you can add these foreshadowing devices in your editing stage. It’s always a good idea to have someone read through your story to confirm that your foreshadowing devices do the job you intended them to do. You won’t want them so subtle that the reader misses them, nor so shocking that the reader is pulled out of the story. 

Remember that foreshadowing is a promise to the reader. Keep your promise.   

"Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there." — Anton Chekhov

Now for the fun part! Examples!

Mission Impossible 3

A plot refresher: "Retired from active duty, and training recruits for the Impossible Mission Force, agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) faces the toughest foe of his career: Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an international broker of arms and information, who is as cunning as he is ruthless. Davian emerges to threaten Hunt and all that he holds dear -- including the woman Hunt loves."

During Ethan Hunt's engagement party (starts at 0:06:23) Ethan reads the lips of the gals (including his fiance' Michelle Monaghan) in the kitchen talking. Here it is on Youtube. 

This sets up a memorable way to easily believe a critical scene later in the movie. 

When Ethan is brought into headquarters and is tied down to a stretcher (starts at 01:15:18)  John Musgrave (Billy Crudup) mouths important information to him, because he knows Ethan can lip-read and slips him a Swiss Army knife to escape.
"Go to Shanghai. Feng Shan Apartments -- 1406."

This entire escape scene would have pulled the reader out as not believable had the lip-reading not been foreshadowed.

Working Girl

A plot refresher: Street-smart Staten Island secretary Tess McGill is determined to use her brains and talent to pull herself out of the secretarial pool and into the upper echelons of New York's brokerage industry. With Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, and Sigourney Weaver.  

The new boss Katherine (Sigourney Weaver) says to Tess (Melanie Griffith):

(00:15:46)"It's a two-way street on my team."
(00:21:07) "Absolutely, Tess. Two-way street. Remember?"
(00:23:53) "You don't get anywhere in this world by waiting for what you want to come to you. You make it happen. Watch me, Tess. Learn from me."

At Turning Point #2 Change of Plans, Tess discovers that Katherine has betrayed her, and Katherine sets out to make things happen for herself. 

(00:29:28) Tess murmurs: "Two-way street. You make it happen."

This foreshadowing builds reader empathy and we are totally committed to Tess's new plan despite its slightly unethical start.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Plot Refresher: Ben Stiller directs and stars in this inspiring story about an ordinary man who finds the courage to discover his destiny and leap into the extraordinary adventure that is life. Walter works for Life Magazine whose motto is "To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of Life." 

This entire movie is one foreshadowing incident after another. The Life magazine motto itself is one the most obvious foreshadows as it appears everywhere once Walter starts his tentative steps to his journey. If you watch the movie, see how many times it appears, such as here in this airport scene: "Things Dangerous To Come To"

A double foreshadowing occurs early in the movie. First, when Walter attempts to create a profile on eHarmony but has no travels to list. "I haven't been anywhere noteworthy or mentionable."

Then he discovers a travel book given to him by his deceased father. The book is, of course, empty, because Walter has taken no trips.

This foreshadows Walter embarking on the biggest adventure of his life. See the trailer here and listen carefully to the dialogue. 

Watch the movie and look for these other visual foreshadowing moments:

Are you getting the hang of this? Okay, here's more fun!

 From Mental Floss: 11 Clever Moments of Movie Foreshadowing You Might Have Missed 

Our other devices seem anticlimactic compared to foreshadowing! Let's quickly review them.


Telegraphing is the unsubtle cousin of foreshadowing. Telegraphing  ruins the story tension because it tells the reader the clues instead of dropping subtle hints. It can also present a cliched situation where it is obvious to the reader what is about to happen, or worse, pulls the reader out of the story with the randomness of the turn of events.

The movie Galaxy Quest actually pokes fun at telegraphing.

Plot Refresher:  The alumni cast of a cult space TV show have to play their roles as the real thing when an alien race needs their help.

We are presented with Crewman Number Six.

Guy Fleegman: "I'm not even supposed to be here. I'm just "Crewman Number Six." I'm expendable. I'm the guy in the episode who dies to prove how serious the situation is. I've gotta get outta here."

 Enjoy Crewman Number Six here.

By the end of the movie, they give Crewman Number Six a name. The entire plot device is based on the cliched character with no name who gets killed in movies, and television shows when things go seriously south. Only in Game of Thrones do the main characters die.

Red Herrings 

This device is employed using objects and/or characters (typically walk-on characters) to distract or mislead the reader. The red herring should be woven in seamlessly, as an organic part of the story or it becomes a cliche. An exceptional red herring facilitates a twist ending. All red herrings should be explained or realized by the end of the story.

Because it would be a spoiler, I won't share the red herrings in these movies, which are in my opinion, stand-out films that utilize this literary device. 


The Maltese Falcon

The Usual Suspects


Finally, a topic we've touched on before, the rule of three.

The Rule of Three

A literary device based on the concept that three is a pleasing number with a satisfying beat and rhythm. People are also thought to remember things longer when presented in a series of three because three has more impact.

Uses in our writing:

1. Subtly creating credibility for a future scene with foreshadowing
2. Emphasizing a story arc
3. Creating story symbols

4. Three times for emphasis-repetition and adjectives

Michael Hauge discusses this in his DVD Creating Powerful Movie Scenes and reminds us of The Karate Kid, where utilizing the rule of three created credibility. 

The Karate Kid

1. Mr. Miyagi is seen using the ‘crane kick’
2. Then Daniel practices the ‘crane kick’. 
3. Later in the movie’s defining moment, ‘the crane kick" is how Daniel wins the match (with an injured knee). 

The Wizard of Oz.

 Dorothy clicks her heels three times to get home.

"There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home."

 There are examples of the rule of three everywhere.

The Three Musketeers
The Three Little Pigs
The Three Days of the Condor
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Now it's your turn. Reader or writer, leave an example of Foreshadowing, Telegraphing, Red Herrings, or The Rule of Three in fiction (books or movies) in the comments.

Two giveaways today. Winner's choice of Seeker Book of Choice, as available on Amazon or winner's choice of any movie mentioned today as available on Amazon or Barnes & Noble for DVD. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

Today's post was brought to you by Tina Radcliffe. Tina  is a two-time Golden Heart finalist, a two-time Carol Award finalist, and a 2014 Carol Award winner. Her 2015 release, Safe in the Fireman's Arms, is a Holt Medallion finalist and a Bookseller's Best Award finalist. She is a dark chocolate addict who currently resides in Arizona.

Her current release, Rocky Mountain Reunion is available. And you can preorder her next release, Rocky Mountain Cowboy.


  1. Brains too foggy (or tired) to come up with an example....I'll check in the morning when there have been other comments...it might trigger something (after coffee of course) :-)

    I have read suspense books where they throw a Red Herring in, but a specific example isn't coming easily right now , lol! 'Till morning folks!

  2. Oh, you can come up with The Rule of Three.

    The three wise men.
    Goldilocks and theThree bears
    Three Billy Goats Gruff.

    Tons of fairy tales use that tool.

  3. Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christy. The King and Queen of the Red Herring.

    1. One thing I never understood was how the Doctor fell for the red herring in And Then There Were None.

  4. Ok Ms T., I'm going out on a limb. Rule of three: The Three Bears, Charlie's Angels, The Three Amigos? Do those work?

    Sounds to me like someone is brushing up on their suspense writing. :-)

  5. Terri, well done!!

    One thing I never understood is how I was completed duped in The Usual Suspects!

  6. Rule of Three:
    Though not technically referred to in scripture as such, how about the Trinity? Father, Son, Holy Ghost (Spirit)

    Red Herring in TV:
    Murder She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder, Matlock, Columbo...Oh I could name more, the ones I grew up on!

    Books: Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon (though she was before my time) & yes, Tina, Agatha Christy!

    Geeze, I hope these count to put my name in the draw! Whew!

  7. Exactly. The trinity.

    You worked hard to get your name in there, Trixi!

  8. The Three Musketeers comes to mind. The power of 3 does crop up a lot.

    A great post thank you.

  9. Good morning, Mary Preston. You've been missed of late. Always good to see you.

  10. Let's see... the three blind mice, the three Amigos, the three stooges, the three little pigs. Wow, I never thought about the rule of three.

    I love books and programs that drop red herrings in along the way.

    Cindy W.

  11. Great post, Tina! I loved the movie Working Girl! Working in the public safety field, the first three that popped into my groggy brain was STOP, LOOK and Listen. Have a great day!

  12. The Bible college that I went to taught ministers to preach sermons with 3 main points.
    Students trying to pass 'those'tests are taught to have an intro, 3 main points and a summary paragraph when they write an entry.

  13. The Bible college that I went to taught ministers to preach sermons with 3 main points.
    Students trying to pass 'those'tests are taught to have an intro, 3 main points and a summary paragraph when they write an entry.

  14. Threes are such a fun or plot-enducing number device. Of course there are simple romance trilogies that around here tend to morph into 6 or 7 book series.... So that's always fun.

    But one of my fave threes is the arc for fantasy or sci fi trilogies, how the first story ends with a happy twist, the second story ends with a cliffhanger (think Star Wars 4, 5 and 6) and the third is the culmination.

    I love that.

    I don't know if all readers love that, but to me, that's a classic... Short-lived success, evil rebounds, goodness wins the day.

    That's how I see them and it's classic.

    Tina, what a marvelous post! Danke!

  15. What perfect timing, Tina! I'm in the middle of a revision (fairly light this time!) and need to clean up some loose ends, things like that rifle hanging on the wall but not getting used. I have a little plot thread that's important but it fizzles out. Time to rethink the foreshadowing and either cut or expand.

    An example . . . Let's see . . . the foreshadowing in Jane Eyre is super strong. We have the scream in the night, the fire, and the torn bridal veil. It builds even more with a stranger's arrival. By the time Jane and Rochester are at the church, we're braced for a disaster. I watched the 1970 version with George C. Scott and Susannah York recently. Good stuff!

  16. Bettie, that's true. Any more than three and it sounds like you're trying too hard.

    Any less, and you don't know your stuff!


    Where's that clover and St. Patrick????

  17. Tina, I love your craft posts!

    In my current WIP, I had a setup early in the book that I wasn't using in the climax. I kept wondering how it would tie in, knowing if I used it in the opening, it needed to be in the ending as well.

    My characters usually reveal their story to me, which occurred not too long ago. And, yes, the setup plays into the climax. I finally "saw" it all unfold.

  18. I haven't seen "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." Must do so!

    BTW, I love the Rule of Three!

    Four doesn't work. Two is one too few. Three is perfect.

    God loves the Number 3 as well! :)

  19. WONDERFUL reminders, Tina! Keeper post for sure! Foreshadowing, etc., can add so much to the layering and effectiveness of your story. Thank you!

  20. TINA, great post!! I try to use the rule of three with secondary characters. They can ease tension, add humor, but also need to forward the plot in some way and should appear three times in the story.

    Like Debby, I must see Walter Mitty. It's on my TOS list. :-)


  21. I'm currently reading an ARC of a book that, once I started reading, the characters on the cover didn't match the characters in the book. My knee-jerk reaction was to email the author and let her know the someone got mixed up in the art dept. Then I realized that was highly unlikely.

    I think the author is using foreshadowing tips, 1)unrelated incidents, 2)future incidents and 3)clues (also the rule of three) to hook the reader. I'm not 100% sure yet as I'm only half way through, but the author is either brilliantly using foreshadowing of it's a red herring. Either way, I'm turning pages quickly to see if I'm right and isn't that the point of using these writer tools? I have a feeling this author is going to keep that promise!

  22. Great information, Tina.

    The rule of three was one of the first writing 'devices' I learned when I started my writing career. Children's/YA books utilize this device a lot.

  23. Walter Mitty.
    My husband loves that movie!
    I've never seen Working Girl. May need to check that one out.

    Thanks Tina. Great reminders.

  24. Okay, but be warned Working Girl is rated R.

  25. I love a good mystery where I don't figure out the ending, Cindy W.

  26. hahaha! Exactly, Jill W. That is one I hadn't thought of. Have a good law enforcement day!

  27. There you go, Bettie.


  28. Victoria!! Great minds. Jane Eyre is perfect for foreshadowing. One I thought of as well. But didn't have a movie on hand.

  29. Ruthy, I love to use the story theme and repeat it three times in a book. Really does the trick.

  30. Okay, it is 6 am here. Went to bed at 1:30. Must go find coffee immediately. Be back asap.

  31. I had no idea three was a rule. Good to know as I think in threes, write in threes too. I have become an expert with the Oxford comma. And the foreshadowing thing - even us pantsters use it - we just don't know we're foreshadowing until we get to the aha moment in chapter 28 of why we wrote that silly little meaningless paragraph back in chapter 2. I've never seen Walter Mitty. Might have to check that out.

  32. Great stuff here, TINA! I understand foreshadowing, but I've never thought much about what telegraphing means. You've made me much more aware!

    Now you're making me want to re-watch all these movies!

  33. EXACTLY, CINDY! And that is the beauty of revising. Which is why I like it so much. It gives us the opportunity to thread in that foreshadowing and rule of three and red herrings.

    You don't need a mystery to have a red herring.

  34. Every time we read a newbie writer we see telegraphing.

    The inability to be subtle, pulling rabbits out of the hat, and random resolutions to plot issues that have not been introduced previously.

    Watch Walter, Myra. You won't be sorry.

  35. Exactly, Debby. I love seeing a plot unfold and synchronicity play out.

  36. Glynna, glad this was an enjoyable post. I love digging up craft posts and finding out the hows and whys behind literary devices.

    Sort of geeky of me.

  37. Well, Janet, I hadn't thought of that. Rule of three with secondary characters..but I like that. I mean, if they aren't going to appear three times, then off with their heads. I REALLY LIKE THAT!!

  38. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH, Tracey. Sounds like a good book.

    I like Criminal Minds. They talk you through the clues and red herrings so impeccably.

  39. Thanks, Rose. You are way ahead of me. I didn't utilize rule of three until my second book. Now I try to always use it to power up the story theme.

  40. Tina, we have three dogs, does that count? I love books that foreshadow, but like the rifle that hangs on the wall and never gets shot,I'm often looking for that boom that ever comes.
    I haven't noticed I the comments that anyone used..oldest child, youngest child and middle child....

  41. I love books and movies that foreshadow. It's like a happy moment when they click into place.

    Thanks for sharing today. What a great post! This is definitely a keeper post!

  42. Good morning Tina and Seekerville.

    Tina, I have to admit, I took one look at this post at midnight, shook my head and went to bed. I knew I didn't have the mental capacity to appreciate it then. This morning is a whole nother ballgame.

    Your post is amazing. You present so much information - almost an overpowering amount. Yet, with exampled and clear explanations, you make it easily accessible.

    And there I used the rule of three on the sentence level. The way I learned Rule of three is that you can use it on the macro level - like the 3 act structure, or on mid-levels - within scenes or chapters - or on the sentence level to build emphasis.

    I love foreshadowing and red herrings. I used foreshadowing for a very important plot point in Christmas in Hiding. I don't want to give it away, so I'll just say penguin.

    I have a red herring in a book I'm working on now. Can't say more on that.

    One of the things I absolutely hate is when a writer makes the foreshadowing so obvious that you just KNOW that's what it is. Now I know the name for it - telegraphing.

    Thank you and thank you for stretching my brain this morning.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you very much! ;)

  43. Great post! I try to use foreshadowing a lot in my writing so I will give an example that I have used (because that's the first thing that comes to mind when I ponder foreshadowing- an author knows their foreshadowing best!). In my first book A Week of Werewolves, Faeries, and Fancy Dresses my heroine's brother watches a werewolf slip into the woods where my heroine is hiding leading up to the climax in which she is attacked by the wolf.

    And as for the Rule of Three... the best I can come up with is the concept of a trilogy. Whether it be books or movies.

    I hope this is good enough to get my name in the draw!

  44. Cate, I am honored to stretch your brain. Isn't it fun to foreshadow? I get inordinate pleasure from the device.

    And you suspense writers get more fun than any of us.

  45. THREE DOGS!!! MARIANNE! You are in. I actually had no idea you have three dogs? What kind are they?

  46. Nicky! Well done. You are in.

    Trilogy is rule of three. Yeppir.

  47. Nicky, I read your title - A Week of Werewolves, Faeries, and Fancy Dresses - and thought RULE OF THREE!

  48. Another foreshadowing moment of memorable history is Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and the SNAKES.

    Foreshadowed with the pilot early on.

    Then later it. Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?

    Trivia: To shoot the Well of Souls scene, they originally had 1,000 snakes, but it wasn’t enough. Then they tried 2,000 and the snakes still didn’t cover the floor. Producers ended up getting an additional 7,000 snakes.

  49. A Week of Werewolves, Faeries, and Fancy Dresses

    ha ha haha. Good catch, Cate!

  50. Jackie Smith, thanks for the kind words AND the TWEET!!

  51. I love the number three (I was born on the third) and now I see the RULE of THREE everywhere!!

  52. Notice how the rule of three and foreshadowing play in Working Girl.

    In the first twenty-three minutes of the movie Katherine affirms the foreshadowing THREE TIMES. By minute 29 we have the reveal and then we are off on our Change of Plans.

    I just noticed that rule of three overlap right now.

    Too cool.

  53. Stephanie!

    Three is more fun.

    I was born on the 16th. No rules for 16.


  54. And what did they do with all those snakes when the movie was over???


  55. Great post Tina The best stories that frip the reader do have those elements. Thanks for reminding me. I'm going through my current wip now and looking to be sure mine are placed within the manuscript.

    Happy writing today.

  56. Frip? I love that word. What does it mean?

  57. Cate, they bought the snakes lunch, cut them a check for acting and sent them home of course.

  58. Wawzah, Tina.

    This (yet again) is one to print off and keep in the file.
    What was that about paperless society? BWaaahhhahahahaha...

    EXCELLENT excellent post.

    I do try to employ all these. About to submit the latest. As I re-read in the next 2 days, will be sure to look for all of these.

    Thank you. Timely as always! :D

    Happy day, Seekers and Villagers!!

  59. Urban dictionary: A frip is an apple fritter without the gooey, yucky middle part.

    Oh, you mean grip. Typos are so much fun. I live for funny typos.

    I remember Jenny Blake's famous quote. "I speak fluent typo."

    Okay, but now I want an apple fritter.

    Dunkin Donuts run. Raise your hand if you want an apple fritter WITH THE GOOEY YUMMY MIDDLE STUFF. YUM.

  60. On second thought, maybe my book was more in the telegraphing category, after all it's right there in living color! Maybe I was just slow on the uptake.

  61. Hiya, KC!!

    Another May book on the WAY....terrrrrific.

  62. Oh - and we have 3 dogs too... And 2 horses... and a cat. :)

    But then, I'm a veterinarian's daughter and one of my prerequisites in a husband was that he must love animals.

    He does. Just posted one hilarious photo of him and Casanova (his real name - he had it when we got him) on May's FB page. It's all good. I'm most blessed.

  63. LOL. Okay, now email me the name of the book, Tracey. I want to read it.

  64. Hey hey hey!!!

    Always good to see your smiling face!

    And thank you - this one has been such SUCH a challenge since May crossed the Bridge 2 yrs ago.

    But... It's almost done and I'm pretty happy with it. Have been working on the back cover. Almost finished with it...

    The illustrator has done an OUTSTANDING job. She is truly incredible, if anyone needs an illustrator. Found her through Sandra Byrd. And... Well... I'd best get back to it if I'm going to submit in the next 2 days.


  65. I'll take 2 frips.
    Reminds me, I've not had b'fast.

    There's plenty of coffee though, if anyone wants some!

  66. Hi Tina:

    What a fun post! I've been having a fountain of ideas in a shower of unrelated splatterings!

    Here's just a few:

    "The Five Red Herrings" by Dorothy L. Sayers.

    "One, Two, Three". Movie by Billy Wilder.
    "Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow" (with the famous Sophia Loren striptease.)
    "Eat, Pray, Love"

    Heart of Romanticism (not romance):
    The eternal triangle.

    Three strikes and you're out.
    Ready, set, go.
    Ready, aim, fire.
    On your marks, get set, go.
    A one, a two, a three... (Lawrence Welk).

    Secret of the successful Speech

    1. tell them what you are going to tell them.
    2. tell them
    3. tell them what you told them.

    Hemingway on Telegraphing:

    "If you want to send a message, use Western Union."

    Red herrings are to writing what head fakes are to basketball.

    Red herrings are to writing what dekeing* is to baseball.

    (*When an outfielder turns is back on a long fly ball coming his way pretending it is going into the stands so he can turn around at the last second and catch the ball enabling him to double up a runner on base.)

    Foreshadowing occurs when the light of awareness strikes your foundation.

    Mirroring and Simulshadowing

    I'd like to add another term to your lexicon. "Mirroring" which is having the environment or setting mirror the action that is going on in the story or the emotional state of the pov character. Elizabeth Lowell is a master at doing this and I love it. Also, Myra did this to perfection in "Autumn Rains". It's more like simulshadowing as the two events are happening simultaneously.

    A last rambling:

    Red herrings are an example at pseudoshadowing.


    Please enter me for a SBC.

  67. I want a fritter too! We have a grocery sore here that makes them better than any pastry shop I've ever had, but it's a little further away, so I'm thinking that's a good thing for my waistline, lol.

    And don't get me started on funny typos. When I first started texting and was unfamiliar with autocorrect I looked at what was in the text and it said something like I was on my way to the morgue! Glad my proof-reading skills had kicked in. They have saved me more than a few times, but sadly not all.

    Just yesterday, while PM on FB with my sister about someone we know really needing Jesus, my phone wouldn't let me type it, it kept autocorrecting Jesup! How weird is that?

  68. On our farm we have A RESCUE DOG (who knows what breed, but she is extremely loyal) A GREAT DANE and a BICHON/SHIH ZTU/YORKIE cross

  69. Lol, Tina, are you sure you really want to know? I've already given you enough info for you to figure it out. I'll email you later, have to go pick up my grass-cutting yard guy, aka grandson Ben.

  70. Great post, TINA. I've heard that "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is a good one!

    Please put me in for today's drawing...

  71. Aw, thanks, VINCE! Autumn Rains will always be one of my personal favorites.

  72. Tina, another keeper post! Love it!

    When foreshadowing is down correctly--WOW! When done pooly... yawn. *frowns* Years ago, I read a book I'd really looked forward to. By the middle I was sure I had it all figured out. By the end? Not only did it NOT deliver, the story left me completely baffled. Many of the loose ends were left unraveled.

    A fun side note... Remember that old movie, The Birds? (Like me, I'm sure you're too young. :) ) But... Accckkk! I could have fun picking that one apart. (No pun intended.) Lots of plot devices in that one, even if they're corny now. And every time a flock of starlings takes up residence in our old walnut trees, I still think of Tippi Hedren running for cover. Clearly, she needed coffee. :)

  73. Love this post Tina.
    Rule of three graphics-wise: Three primary colors, three secondary colors, three tertiary colors - which gives one a complete color wheel.

    Someone already wrote about the 3 act process for writing/plays/movies.

    Have never seen the Secret Life (did you know that the Stiller one is a remake?)

    Personally, I'd love a copy of the Maltese Falcon. Love the old movies. (the Court Jester with Danny Kaye cracks me up all the time - I'm sure there's foreshadowing in that one somewhere)

    I'm not very good at foreshadowing or coming up with red herrings. I'm afraid I telegraph a bit. (Laughing a bunch at the Hemingway quote, VINCE)

  74. Duh. Just noticed the primary colors, secondary colors, and tertiary colors is a set of three itself. *hand to face smack*

  75. TINA, you're giving me a scary image! LOL


  76. I love Jane Eyre, except...

    Does the part with the preacher and his sisters bug anyone else? I'm just desperate to see Jane and Mr. Rochester get together and that part bogs down the pace. Anyone else??


  77. Janet, what is a TOS list? Scratching my head and feeling ignorant...which is never good! :)

    (Top of Shelf?)

  78. CYNTHIA, The Birds is an old favorite movie of mine! Yep, lots of corny stuff and a few little things I never did figure out, but so creepy!

  79. Cindy, I agree! Often something appears as I'm writing my fast draft that I don't understand. I know enough to leave it in place, and as you mentioned, I usually find the reason/meaning/use for the unexpected addition later in the story. I call that a God thing! Truly!

  80. Wow, I learned a lot with this article! I love your quote "Foreshadowing is a promise to the reader. Keep your promise." I read a book recently where I thought we were being led up to something, but it never came to fruition, it was like that aspect of the plot was simply abandoned. I think the story would have been stronger if the foreshadowing wasn't there in the first place.

  81. Tina, you mention the story theme three times in your books? Did I get that right?

    Nice tip!

  82. Getting a little more into the psychological thriller side of things, The Sixth Sense did an amazing job at fooling the audience.

  83. Deb H - I've actually seen the original Secret Iife of Walter Smitty and it isn't as good as the remake in my opinion.

  84. Vince!!! Well DONE!!!! Thanks for all those ramblings. Loved them.

  85. LOL on the text message. I was texting yesterday and wanted to say our family and said Alice.

    My daughter texted back and said. ALICE WHO IS ALICE??? Have I met Alice?

  86. Cynthia, do you know that THE BIRDS terrified me. To this day I cannot watch that movie all the way through.

    Check out that link for Buzzfeed. A few good old movie foreshadows that are terrific.

  87. hahaha Threes inside of threes, DebH. Well played.

  88. Admission: I hate Jane Eyre. Sorry Janet.

    I think she meant TBS list. To Be Seen. Not TOS. Another phone typo.

  89. Yes, Debby, I try to mention something that refers to the theme, three times. Or a parallel.

  90. Yes, Heidi, bad foreshadowing is frustrating to the reader. It's like when you think one guy is the hero and he is not. Annoying.

  91. The Sixth Sense. TERRI. GOOD CALL. Now I have never seen it, but everything I researched on Foreshadowing claims that is the masterpiece.

    The original Walter Mitty is like the short story that the movie first was derived from. The second movie is completely different.

  92. I read a book some months ago where the author set up a perfect twist that I expected, since I'm a savvy author. :)

    Only the writer didn't make the twist, and I felt cheated. IMHO, the writer missed an opportunity.

    I love ending twists. They make stories so much more fun!

  93. Love these ideas and examples, Tina. Thank you!

  94. Gotta deliver, right Deb? I hate when they don't deliver.


  95. And...clearly, *I* needed coffee. A gold star for anyone who caught my typo. :) Cheers!


  96. Cynthia, you have to try harder. I read down as done. No typo points sorry.

    I too read fluent typo.

  97. What a fun and informative post, Tina. It also makes me want to watch Galaxy Quest again. Such a fun movie. The rule of three is something I need to keep in mind. I think I get foreshadowing pretty well.

    Please enter me in the drawing.

  98. By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Worvan, you shall be avenged.

    You are in, Sandy!

  99. WOW. WOW. WOW. This is not just a workshop in a blog, my friend, this is a post graduate course!! I have learned more today in this post than I have in a month of most posts, so I'll say it again -- WOW!!

    First of all, I knew what foreshadowing was, a vague idea about red herrings, but had NO IDEA what telegraphing was, so THANK YOU!!

    Love, LOVE, LOVE the clips and examples you gave -- soooooo fun to see it so clearly through them.

    I have to say that like Jill, I loved the movie Working Gir1 (except for the questionable morals in the movie), and although I loved that sample of foreshadowing you gave, I never really noticed it for what it was till now.

    As far as examples from my own writing, I was actually told by my agent to include more "clues" of foreshadowing in A Heart Revealed because otherwise when the big twist at the end was revealed, my readers might feel betrayed or hoodwinked. So I did, but I didn't really want to because I was scared to death somebody would pick up on it and ruin the surprise ending. But it turned out nobody did pick up on it till after they read the book, then the foreshadowing came back to them, I hope, to show them clues that were there all along.

    I think another example of foreshadowing would be Scarlett's nightmares in GWTW, where she was always running through a fog, but not sure where she was running to.

    I swear, Tina, this post had to take you several days if not more to research and put together. It's THAT amazing, my friend!!


  100. Gone with the Wind has LOTS of foreshadowing. Here is one from TV TROPES

    The first time we meet Gerald O'Hara, he's jumping fences on his horse, something his wife and daughters all disapprove of because of the danger, yet secretly indulge because of their love for him. Is it any wonder that this is how he's killed years later?
    Scarlett takes the memory itself as an omen with regards to Bonnie.

  101. Once you pick a topic weeks out then the research actually comes to you. You start seeing the topic everywhere.

    It started months ago when I saw MI:3.

    Then I saw Walter Mitty.

    So when I do a teaching post, really, the world delivers the material to me. :)

  102. Wow, you have quite a following. Not sure I'll get a response but want you to know I'm happy to have found your blog today. I was researching the Rule of 3. I'm almost finished with second novel and I want to refresh the reader's mind about one thing in the first book. I'd heard it takes three times to place it in the reader's mind and now I've found it in writing.
    Also I was happy to learn this is by Christian writers. My first book barely touched on faith and the second one I want to make my main character a more serious person of faith. I'll be following your blog to see how you're handling this. Thanks much.

  103. B. WHITTINGTON, welcome to Seekerville! If you're looking for a friendly bunch of writers and readers and lots of give-and-take about the writing life, you're in the right place!

  104. WOW WOW WOW!!! (see what I did? LOL) Excellent post full of great information and examples, Miss T!! I know I'll be referring back to this in my Keeper File. :)

    And WELCOME to B. WHITTINGTON!! This blog is the BEST place to visit, learn, and find friends! (The virtual food isn't bad either, hehe!) ;)

    Thanks again, Tina. Your "3" examples reminded me of an old, old movie I viewed as a little girl. "Three Coins in the Fountain" is the name, but I can't remember what it was about....hmmm, will need to find this and watch again!
    Hugs, Patti Jo

  105. Well....when I posted my comment I hadn't read hardly any others - - and now see that sweet Julie Lessman also posted the WOW times 3. ;) Sorry I thought I was being original, LOL.

  106. Three Coins in the Fountain. Great old movie.

    Three Coins In The Fountain
    Frank Sinatra
    Three coins in the fountain,
    Each one seeking happiness.
    Thrown by three hopeful lovers,
    Which one will the fountain bless?
    Three hearts in the fountain,
    Each heart longing for its home.
    There they lie in the fountain
    Somewhere in the heart of Rome.
    Which one will the fountain bless?
    Which one will the fountain bless?
    Three coins in the fountain,
    Through the ripples how they shine.
    Just one wish will be granted,
    One heart will wear a valentine.

  107. B Whittington!!! Welcome! Great to have you here. There are still apple fritters on the side bar.

    Click on our About Us link for more information and to request a Welcome Packet.

  108. Some of us followed the "Rule of 3" when we had kiddos, LOL.
    I have 3 children (all red-haired, which still amazes our family). ;)
    With my cats I guess I've doubled the rule of 3 (currently have 6).
    Before getting back to my WIP, I'm setting out 3 Georgia peach desserts: Peach cobbler (warm from the oven), Peach muffins, and for those of us battling HEAT I have homemade Georgia Peach ice-cream - - yum!! :)

  109. TINA!!!! LOVE that you found those lyrics!! I figured no one else was familiar with that old movie!! THANK YOU!!!! :) (Now the melody has come back to me - - I'll be humming this the rest of the day). ;)

  110. I am thinking about this so hard my head is starting to hurt.
    I blame the fact that we had too much sweet corn for lunch and now all I want to do is NAP.

    I looked at your link about the foreshadowing.
    Interesting...except I hadn't seen quite a few of the movies.
    So now I'm trying to think of the foreshadowing in my own books...that's fair right? (as if you can stop me from typing right now)

    And that leads me to THIS, which is from NOT a movie or my books.

    In Harry Potter, the first one...rats I've got to go look it up.
    The Sorcerer's Stone I think.......on page like...one or very very early anyway, Hagrid shows up to fetch Harry to go to Hogwart. Of course Harry knows NOTHING of what comes.
    But the fascinating foreshadowing is...the single sentence....Hagrid rode up on Sirius Black's motorcycle.

    Okay, Sirius Black is an important character in book THREE. He is almost never mentioned at all the rest of book 1 and book 2. But suddenly he's the star of book three and by then no one remembers that one sentence, so minimally important, and yet it was a foreshadowing of all that has come before and all that is yet to come.

    Tiny inserted references like that are what make that series so FASCINATING. And so re-readable. To catch those little details.

  111. What a deal! Cobbler, muffins and ice cream for lyrics. Thank you!Thank you! Thank you!

    I'm starting to feel OCD. OCD. OCD.

  112. You are so right, Mary.

    And really, it makes you want to read them over and over.

    Right now that's how I am obsessively with Walter Mitty.

    I've broken the movie down to Six Stage Plot Structure, looked for foreshadowing and red herrings.

    I might need to play it backwards next for backmasking!!!!!LOLOLOL!!

  113. I struggled with red herrings in my cozy mystery series.
    I found writing a mystery, a true mystery to be very complex, especially to someone like me who is a seat of the pants author. Mysteries need to be planned carefully and of course that is anathema to me (and thank you for this opportunity to use the word anathema in a sentence and I'd also like to thank Blogger for adding spell check to their comments.)

  114. I've certainly written a lot of three book series. That seems to be a common number, there are of course many exceptions, but lots of three book series.
    I wonder why that is?

    I remember a tv comedy writer one time talking about sit com jokes and he said they were over and over, a set up of three parts.

    Set up
    Set up
    Punch line

    The whole show just repeated and repeated that rhythm.

    The three billy goats gruff
    Each one larger, stronger, until finally the biggest and meanest defeats the troll under the bridge. There's a rhythm to that. The Tin Man, The Scarecrow, The Cowardly Lion, all friends of Dorothy's in the Wizard of Oz.
    I think more than that it becomes hard to create full, three dimensional charcters, less that that isn't enough of a span to reflect all the potential ways to handle a crisis.
    The brains-to think-the plan
    The heart-to feel-the character
    The courage-to act-the plot


  115. Anathema. something or someone that one vehemently dislikes.

    synonyms: an abomination, an outrage, an abhorrence, a disgrace, an evil, a bane, a bugbear, a bête noire; More

    I think a better word is discombobulating.

  116. It also reminds of of volleyball. The bump to stop the ball coming over the net. The set up to put the ball in place. The spike.
    Similar to the set up, set up, punch line.

  117. plotting discombobulates me? (okay spelling definitely does!)

  118. I felt like I telegraphed and foreshadowed Seth showing up in that cave in the Kincaid brides series. But even so as I was writing to that point, I almost didn't see it coming...and then the moment was right and POP. That weird, scary strange man I want arrested? Oops, nope. Hes my brother.

  119. I like the word discombobulating...I just didn't know how to spell it. Thanks again, Tina!

    Welcome, B. WHITTINGTON!!! Now that you've found us, don't--as they say in the South--be a stranger! :)

    I'm reaching for Patti Jo's peach ice cream! Yum! Perfect for a hot GA day!

  120. Oooh, this looks so interesting, TINA! Just had time for a quick read-through, will be back later to study it. Thank you!!

  121. Hi Tina:

    There is a lot to the idea of telegraphing. Sometimes it is not a hint or clue that telegraphs what is going to happen. Often I will see a seemingly meaningless short scene in a tv drama and instantly tell my wife: "X is going to happen." "How could you possibily know that?" Because the only reason for that last scene was to lay the foundation for X to happen. And it always happens as I predicted. Now in bad writing, they don't even lay a foundation and I can't work my magic.

    Telegraphing can also refer to the author's message or intentions in writing that particular story. This is sometimes called being heavy handed or using a sledge hammer to drive a small nail. I still remember how I dropped my Kindle once when I read a character in one Seeker's story speak the Moral Premise of the book in exact and stilted Moral Premise format. That is telegraphing the Moral Premise in all CAPS!

    Telegraphing can also refer to the prose style. That is, staccato sounding, one to three word sentences to create the look and feel of reading a telegram. I've even seen an author work the word "STOP" into the prose as an inside telegraphing joke for other writers to enjoy.

    So. There. You. Have. It.


  122. Loved this post, Tina! The rule of three is one of my favorite techniques in writing! I love to use it with symbols or snippets of conversation or action.

  123. TINA, I just realized with your GWTW example, it also foreshadows how Bonnie dies which also qualifies it as a rule of three too, right?

  124. Hi Julie:

    Loved your quote below because I was fooled along with the rest!

    "As far as examples from my own writing, I was actually told by my agent to include more "clues" of foreshadowing in "A Heart Revealed" because otherwise when the big twist at the end was revealed, my readers might feel betrayed or hoodwinked. So I did, but I didn't really want to because I was scared to death somebody would pick up on it and ruin the surprise ending. But it turned out nobody did pick up on it till after they read the book, then the foreshadowing came back to them, I hope, to show them clues that were there all along."

    This observation reminds me of two lessons:

    1) Louis L'Amour always had his cowboy heroes check their backtrails when traveling unknown territory. You see the way there can look nothing like the way back home. The views can be very different. The wise cowboy is always checking what it looks like to be riding in the opposite direction. With "A Heart Revealed" I was not checking my backtrail. And I didn't because of lesson 2.

    2) It's not what you don't know that gets you into the most trouble; it's what you 'know' that ain't so that causes the most grief. You see, I 'knew' what the only way out for Emma was -- so why should I check my backtrail for other alternatives? Often, if you look backwards, you can see clues that the front view obscures. Besides there were plenty of red herring foundational elements that showed the husband to be leading a very risky life. My 'solution' had more foundation than the Empire State building!!!

    The real test is can you trick me again? : )


  125. .
    Once is an accident.
    Twice is a coincidence.
    Three times is war.


    "What I tell you three times is true."

    The Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll

  126. It's been super busy today, but I wanted to make time to stop in and say this is awesome, Tina, like you!

  127. Oh my goodness, Tina, this is FANTABULOUS!

    I have heard the rule of three and these examples were VERY helpful in understanding that concept.

    Once is an accident.
    Twice is a coincidence.
    Three times is war. -- I love Vince's comment too :)

    Anathema and discombobulating are both favorite words of mine.

    Ok not sure if anyone else has already mentioned this one but how about the color RED throughout the movie The Sixth Sense?

  128. Janet Ferguson!!! Thank you. I think you are awesome too.

  129. Obviously The Sixth Sense needs to be on my hit list. I am going to grab my teddy bear and order it. CHICKEN. CHICKEN. CHICKEN.

  130. I just sent this post to my printer. I want to keep this and chew on later when the vertigo eases up.

    Last week the doctor told me I must use my cane at all times to help with my balance. My good friend loaned me her walker and I find it much easier to use then the cane in the house. This morning I went blueberry picking with my friends. I took my walker along. I am sure that was a funny sight to behold--this old lady using a walker and picking blueberries. I wonder it that would be an interesting side to add to a character in a book?

    I hope everyone is doing well. I hope to get a little editing and writing in this evening if the vertigo allows. While we are in this stormy time of year, I never know from one day to the next what my days will hold. I have a permanent injury in my inner ear so low pressure systems wreck havoc with me.

    In spite of all this the Lord is good.

  131. Correctamundo, Cate. DING DING DING!@!!!

  132. Thanks, Missy and Laura. Lots to digest, isn't it???

  133. Vince!! Well done.

    “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”
    - the American Declaration of Independence

    “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”
    - the Gettysburg Address

    “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”
    - Benjamin Disraeli

    “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”
    - Sir Winston Churchill

    “Never before in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many, to so few”
    - – Sir Winston Churchill

  134. You've never seen the Sixth Sense?
    Just fyi
    I called the ending.
    I've never talked to anyone else who did.

  135. Veni, Vici, Vidi
    I came, I saw, I conquered.

    Are we doing sayings with three parts now?

  136. I've heard what the ending is..but nope, ever seen Sixth Sense. I was too chicken when it was popular.

  137. I don't tweet so that was NOT me, Tina! However, I will compliment you any time....you do such a great job for us here! Thanks Thanks Thanks

    In looking back at books I've read....most of my faves were trilogies!
    Count me in for a SBC.

  138. Oooh, The Maltese Falcon was such a good book!

    The Rule of Threes in literature: In A Christmas Carol -- The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Be.

    Other threes that come to mind:
    I came. I saw. I conquered. -- Julius Caesar
    Faith, hope, and charity.
    Lights! Camera! Action!
    And a special favorite -- Be brief, be brilliant, and be gone :-)

    Tina, this is another super teaching post. Thank you!

    Nancy C

  139. LOL. Yes, it was the other Jackie, Jackie. But hi and thank you, Jackie Smith.

  140. Thanks, Nancy C!!

    The 3 B's of Presenting: Be Bold, Be Brief, Be Gone!

    I had to look that up!

  141. VINCE SAID: "The real test is can you trick me again? : )"

    LOL!! I'll tell you flat out -- NO!!! ;)

    VINCE SAID AGAIN: "Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is war."

    Okay, buster, is that YOUR quote??? Because if it is, I am going to crown you King of Amazing because you never fail to blow me away!!


  142. TINA, you are so right! I meant to type TBS as in to be seen, DEBBY.


  143. Tina, I loved this post. I'm not very good at foreshadowing, but your examples really helped. I have been thinking all day about something to share an example of what you talked about. Now, I'm at the end of the day and my brain is mush. The only one coming to mind right this minute is the book title, "The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig." I know, pretty sorry. I did create my series with three sisters in mind. That's the best I can do tonight. Sigh.

    Suffice it to say, I'm very grateful for all you shared today. I definitely need to work on all of them.

    I'd still love to be entered into the drawing, if you will accept my example. ;)

  144. "The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig."

    You are in the drawing by virtue of exhaustion. Three little pigs and big bad wolf maybe??


    Go directly to sleep, mom.

  145. There really is a fractured fairy tale by this name. :)

  146. Tina, What a great post and what fun comments, and you are right, dark chocolate is wonderful.

    As far as Alfred Hitchcock movies, many of them have red herrings and foreshadowing. In North by Northwest, the whole concept of Roger O. Thornhill is a sort of red herring as James Mason believes he's Kaplan. I love Shadow of a Doubt and the foreshadowing of the revelation of the truth about Uncle Charley, and how his niece Charlie wants something to happen and at the beginning, she feels a thrill of foreshadowing that something is about to happen. (I'm a huge Hitchcock fan.)

    There was a TV detective show in the 1970s that I love called Ellery Queen. My favorite was one that involved Alice in Wonderland and Ellery Queen used three clues from the book Alice in Wonderland to uncover who the murderer was. More recently, I enjoyed the TV show Psych which revolved around Shawn Spencer, and the show often featured red herrings that the cops would investigate while Shawn went off on his own tangent.

    At any rate, I love mysteries, but all genres can feature these plot devices, and so many fun contemporaries use the rule of threes with humor, amping up the humor with each ante.

    Thanks for the post, and ways for me to think about adding depth to stories.

  147. Tina, One more comment. Sorry to clog up the comments. Has anyone ever read Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs as retold by Mo Willems (he's one of my favorite children's authors)? On the inside flyleaf, he has all these great titles and more crossed out: Goldilocks and the Three Moose, Goldilocks and the Three Accountants, Goldilocks and the Three Red Herring (I kid you not!).

  148. Really? Jeanne??? lol. I love that!!

  149. Wonderful post, Tina! I'll have to bookmark this one for easy reference. I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty a few weeks ago with Mountain Man.

  150. I love Mo Willems books!!! Love them. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.

    Tanya, you know there is an Ellery Queen Magazine, right?

  151. Did you like Walter as much as I obviously did, Rhonda? Did you see all the turning points?? Didja? Didja? Didja?? Did you annoy Mountain Man as you pointed them out???? LOL

  152. Hi Julie:

    I didn't originate that quote. I thought it was a cliché or I would have attributed it. I believe I heard it first in the Godfather movies.

    I have a question for you:

    What are the three theological virtures which are considered gifts from God?

    Faith, Hope, and Charity


  153. LOL. Of course, I didn't catch as many turning points as you did. I'm still learning how to play the game. But I'm studying hard, and one day I'll be as good as you...well, maybe.

    Annoy Mountain Man? Moi? ;)

  154. Hi Tina:

    The Churchill and Disraeli quotes open a new venue for the rule of three examples. Excellent. Those made me think of this one:

    "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. "
    Abraham Lincoln

    Then there is the syllogism which was the basis of logic for over 2,400 years.

    All men are mortal.
    Socrates is a man.
    Therefore: Socrates is mortal.

    And to stretch the idea a little, I really like this one:

    it is a tale
    Told by an idiot
    full of sound and fury
    Signifying nothing.

    Now that's a trifecta!


  155. Hi Tina:

    The Churchill and Disraeli quotes open a new venue for the rule of three examples. Excellent. Those made me think of this one:

    "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. "
    Abraham Lincoln

    Then there is the syllogism which was the basis of logic for over 2,400 years.

    All men are mortal.
    Socrates is a man.
    Therefore: Socrates is mortal.

    And to stretch the idea a little, I really like this one:

    it is a tale
    Told by an idiot
    full of sound and fury
    Signifying nothing.

    Now that's a trifecta!


    P.S. There is an updated version of Caesar's famous saying:

    "Veni, Vidi, Visa"
    I came, I saw, I shopped.

  156. Please Note:

    The word 'Visa' above is a joke. There are at least five Latin words for 'to shop' depending on what you are shopping for and where you are shopping. I was not sure which word to use. However, I think the best word in the first person perfect would be ii. And since Veni, Vidi, Ii looks so weird and since more people will probably see the I as an L and since the rule of three for best symmetry really should have three words that begin with 'V', I went with 'Visa' -- as others have done as well.

    BTW: in five hours I'm off to the hospital for a heart procedure to deal with a little heart failure. Any prayers would be appreciated. I hope to be back to comment tonight.


  157. I am keeping this one! Thank you for explaining the terms.

  158. Thank you so much for the definitions (and great movie choices)!

    Red Herring: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. Gah, and the poor "red shirts" too ... I won't say anything more or I'll spoil it. =/

    @ Vince - Praying that your procedure goes well! =)

  159. Praying for your procedure, Vince!

  160. This was a very interesting lesson. Foreshadowing and the three's...yup. Ice cream, topping, and whipped cream. Got it! How could I forget? The movies referenced were good food for thought as well. I've watched Walter Mitty a number of times...good for note taking! :)

  161. Fabulous post, Tina! No wonder your books are so excellent :)

    Please enter me in the drawing and thank you for offering it.

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

  162. So interesting. I tend to not see until after the fact. :-0 Please enter me in the drawing.

  163. Well, Phyllis, thanks for the kind words.

    Becky, you and Phyllis are entered.

  164. The Rule of Three ~ The three amigo's... You, me and baby makes three.. Three Day's of the Condor
    Interesting post today.. toss me into the drawing please.