Deliver Foreshadowing in a 1, 2, 3 Punch

I said last week that I was going to fail at not gushing over Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim—and I was right. Turns out I have yet to say all I have to say on this subject. For the next couple of weeks, we’re going to explore a few more lessons we can glean from this outstanding bit of storytelling. Today, we’re going to talk about foreshadowing—including both plants and payoffs. (And that means spoilers. So if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know about a certain important plot development in the climax, then you might want to come back to it after you’ve seen the movie.)

So here comes the SPOILER: In the Climax, in which the heroes are trying to blow up the wormhole that’s letting the alien monsters into our world, their plan to nuke it goes astray. This is a great moment in itself, since it immediately and impossibly ups the stakes. But fortunately for all humanity, it turns out that one of the Jaegers—the machines used fight the monsters—runs on nuclear power. Enter: a spur-of-the-moment Plan B.

Learn from Pacific Rim how to make your story live up to every last bit of its potential

Pacific Rim (2013), Warner Bros.

This twist works because it was prominently and repeatedly foreshadowed. Earlier in the movie, the Jaeger’s antiquated nuclear power source is emphasized when it keeps running even after the other digital Jaegers are knocked out by an EMP. This sequence left viewers in no doubt of the nuclear core’s existence.

But then del Toro cleverly reinforced this foreshadowing in several smaller ways—in essence, creating a 1-2-3 punch. One subplot features a prominent character who is dying of cancer from radiation as a result of his own time spent in a nuclear-powered Jaeger. And then, finally, as the heroes gear up for the Climax, viewers are subtly reminded of the nuclear power system when the camera lingers on the nuclear symbol on the Jaeger’s back.

None of this is quite blatant enough to let viewers guess what’s going to happen in the Climax. But it’s also set up so perfectly that when the events of the Climax do play out, they make perfect sense.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Can you think of three ways in which you’ve foreshadowed your Climax? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Offtopic (a bit): I’m glad I’m not the only one who really and truly enjoyed Pacific Rim. I was only mildly annoyed with the ending, as I thought the hero should have died instead of being able to make it out. 🙂 It seemed rather cliché. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the storyline and how they built up the characters as well as supported the story. Not only that, the action wasn’t overdone (as in Man of Steel).

    And that’s a good question: how do I foreshadow my climax…. The fact I don’t have a clear answer makes me realize I need to be more clear in my intent of using that (if it’s appropriate for the story).


    • K.M. Weiland says

      I was actually pleased that he didn’t die. I fully expected him to there during the climax, but, as much as I love bittersweet endings, it wasn’t the kind of movie I wanted that from.

  2. Well my character’s heritage is foreshadowed by her surprising ability to keep herself from screaming during times of crises. She mentions this several times. Also the group she was born into {and doesn’t know it} talk about how she’s a “a natural” Plus at one point her companion mutters something in her sleep that my protagonist thinks refers to her own past but actually is about my MC’s mother

  3. I saw (again) Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino yesterday from that point of view and noticed (spoilers ahead) whay you mention.
    We see in a couple of occasions Clint’s character coughing blood, we know he’s sick and he will eventually die soon. But at the end we get why this is important: since he knows he will die anyway and since he confesses in Corea he killed a boy during war, he now sacrifices his own life to save a Japanese boy.

    • K.M. Weiland says

      If a character so much as sneezes in a movie, you can pretty much bet he’s doomed. Coughing is particularly suspect. Characters never cough without good reason!

  4. Been up and down the last two articles several times. No podcast? With my eyes how they are, reading is… an uphill battle.I can barely tell what I’ve typed. Disappointed.

    Probably won’t find your response, but thought I’d let you know.

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