Premonitions and Foreshadowings: Writer’s Friend or Foe?

22 February, 2013

They come in phases: Premonitions about little events, sometimes big ones. I’m sure this is a normal part of the human condition that most of us simply ignore or slough off as something else: a subconscious signal picked up by the brain that forms into full thought a second after the event has occurred, feeling like it happened before the event. Oh, you know what I mean.
It’s different than deja vu. That’s a conversation for another day.
So, I was walking to the coffee shop this morning, all bundled up against the winter storm, Pacific Northwest style. Rain, wind, tons of snow in the mountains, pounding surf at the coast.
I was reminiscing about a project I did as a child in my 5th grade class. I created a thick book describing outstanding features of all 50 states. I remembered that I thought Oregon was a very distant place, somewhere I’d probably never see. (I moved here in ’88 and never looked back.) I had pictures in my book of the state capital in Salem, Multnomah Falls in the Columbia Gorge, and cowboys somewhere out “on the range”. I flashed on the picture I’d cut out of a book which I chose to glue into my big book of states. The cowboy wore a white hat tilted over one eye.
As I walked along, I side-stepped a puddle and looked out from under my hood to see a man walking towards me on the sidewalk. He wore a white cowboy hat tilted to one side! In the rain! For those of you not familiar with Portland garb, we see a lot of things (keep Portland weird), but this was very unusual.
That was the first premonition. Maybe that’s not the word for it, but I love when that happens.
Then, as I turned the corner, half way to the coffee shop, the yard on my left caught my attention. As I walked, it seemed to swim and spin slightly. I’m healthy and feel great, so this wasn’t anything like a cold coming on. It reminded me of train travel, how, if you stare out the window for a long time, the scenery has the same effect of swimming and spinning. Closing your eyes won’t get rid of it, but the insides of your eyelids will swim and spin in the opposite direction.
Back to the story: right after I thought about how the yard’s movement reminded me of train travel, a train whistle went off!
My neighborhood isn’t very near the tracks, but close enough to benefit from a whistle now and then.
So, I think that this sort of premonition, or rather, foreshadowing, is a wonderful thing. Yes, I like that word much better. Foreshadowing.
The big question is: would you believe it if a character in a story had this happen to them? Would it seem like magic or real life? I think it’s real life for characters in a story as much as it is for me. If the reader decides it’s poppycock, so be it.

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