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Related: literary technique - plot device - story - fiction

Types of 'endings': apocalyptic ending - death - fate - happy ending - open ending - sad ending - twist ending

Contrast: beginning

Had I but known

The phrase "had I but known" is a rather obvious form of foreshadowing that hints at some looming disaster in which the first-person narrator laments his or her course of action which precipitates some or other unfortunate series of action. Classically, the narrator never makes explicit the nature of the mistake, until both the narrator and the reader have realized the consequence of the error. If done well, this literary device can add suspense or dramatic irony, if overdone, it invites comparison of the story to Victorian melodrama and sub-standard popular fiction. This is a characteristic element used by classical horror author H. P. Lovecraft in almost every one of his stories.

The technique has also been used by omniscient narrators, with even less excuse. It is much harder to be done well in a third-person narrative. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Had_I_but_known [Aug 2006]


Foreshadowing is a literary device in which an author drops subtle hints about plot developments to come later in the story. Each of these hints widens the range of possible consequences and maintains tension throughout the narrative as these possibilities narrow. An example of foreshadowing might be when a character displays a gun or knife early in the story. Merely the appearance of a deadly weapon, even though it is used for an innocuous purpose — such as being cleaned or whittling wood — suggests terrible consequences later on. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreshadowing [Sept 2006]

Spoiler warning

A spoiler is a piece of information in an article about a narrative work (such as a book, feature film, television show or video game) that may reduce one's enjoyment of reading, viewing, or playing the work by revealing certain plot events or twists. If someone hasn't read, watched or played the material to which the warning refers, he or she might wish to do so before reading the spoiler in the article.

Not all visitors will recognize the nature of Wikipedia, which strives first to inform, spoilers or not. An article may contain analyses and background detail not available—or at least, not obvious—in the work described. Where this is the case, some people feel a spoiler notice should be made prominent as a simple courtesy.

It is also recommended that editors avoid placing spoilers in edit summaries or section headers (unless the spoiler warning is before the table of contents) and avoid linking from another article to a section inside the spoiler area. Information that may be a spoiler for a narrative work may sometimes be relevant in articles about other subjects than the narrative in question, for example in the article about another fictional work, an actor, or an author; in these cases, spoilers can still be preceeded by a spoiler warning. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Spoiler_warning [Aug 2006]

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