Insight, Oversight, Foresight, and Hindsight for Writers
Looking for a different angle on your fiction or nonfiction? Consider the concepts of insight, oversight, foresight and hindsight for your fiction character’s point of view or as the angle for your nonfiction topic. They may prove to be the rare twist you’ve been looking for.
Insight is defined as the strength to see into a situation (penetration), to see the cause and effect within a specific context, or the act of understanding the inner character of things (intuition). Some other synonyms for insight, besides penetration and intuition, include, instinct, sixth sense, profundity, sagacity, sageness, discernment, deduction, and wisdom.
Insight can show itself abruptly and unexpectedly. For example, when faced with a difficult problem or dilemma, your suddenly know exactly what the solution is. You have an epiphany or an “Aha!” moment. In fiction, your character may have these on a regular basis, giving her the reputation of being a psychic or something. Or the insight may be part of the plot, where everything becomes clear to the reader, though not overtly of course. For nonfiction, the writer might use their personal insight on a topic or field of study to explain things for his or her readers. Or the writer may show readers how to develop their own insight and how to use their insight in their personal, work and social lives.
Oversight is defined as observant and conscientious attention; strict supervision or management; or an unintentional omission or mistake. Synonyms for oversight include: disregard, neglect, a slight, boss, overlook, superintend, supervise, or to watch over.
In fiction, your character may be an overseer who manages slaves in the field, who is a strict disciplinarian in the work place, or a high-ranking government employee responsible for keeping the masses in line. For nonfiction you may be writing articles or books on government oversight committees, asking who is overseeing the government, discussing government regulations or clinical supervision. Nonfiction writers could also create an oversight system which they teach to their readers, or already show readers how to set up their own oversight protocols for their workplace or charities.
Foresight is the act of foreseeing or seeing a development beforehand; prudence; or the act of looking forward. Synonyms include: caution, carefulness, good sense, care, forethought discretion, uncommon perception, creative discernment, prescience, vision, exercising good judgment, shared sense, circumspection, to be farsighted, or to be a visionary.
In fiction your character might be a futurist (someone who looks at all the present and past facts and trends to predict future events) or a religious or spiritual person who has a gift for keen foresight. For nonfiction, writers could interview futurists about their economic and political foresight, they could offer their own foresight into any field based on their skill, or they can teach their readers how to develop their own foresight based on the facts and trends of current and past events.
Hindsight can be defined as retrospect, the awareness or discernment of the character, makeup, or disposition of any event that has already occurred, or the penchant for seeing past events as being more predictable than they truly were at the time. Synonyms might include: 20/20 vision, 20/20 hindsight, Monday morning quarterbacking, experience, realization, knowledge, learning, looking back, recollection, remembering, the knew-it-all-along effect, memory distortion, or creeping determinism.
In fiction, your character may have failed to see the signs or clues to their difficult situation, but in hindsight now sees the error of his or her ways, or the character may be using hindsight as a method of reflection to re-examine his life. Nonfiction writers can use hindsight to discuss how our memories can be faulty or how they may have been affected by our belief systems and our personal histories and biases. Writers could also teach their readers how to use hindsight to re-examine their belief systems or to mirror on and re-examine their lives. Both fiction and nonfiction writers can make use of Monday morning quarterbacking and the knew-it-all-along mentalities. Better however, consider how hindsight can be used to inform foresight in either your fiction or your nonfiction.