Foreshadowing is very valuable tool in storytelling. These tips to add foreshadowing into your story will help you satisfy your readers and keep them turning page after page.
The biggest thing to remember with foreshadowing is that you—the writer—need to deliver on the promises you made earlier in the story. Meaning, that if you introduce or hint at something in Act One, you need to deliver on that promise in the Final Acts.
Why your book needs foreshadowing
Foreshadowing helps set the tone for your readers and helps your reader get used to darker themes within your story. Writers use foreshadowing to covey or introduce information that is important and relevant later in the story.
While used for many purposes, its target remains constant: the audience. Writers add foreshadowing in their writing help their readers understand and note tidbits about the story, characters, and settings, that they may not have otherwise held on to.
Foreshadowing helps readers be more invested in your characters and their surroundings as the story progresses.
3 tips to add foreshadowing into your story
Don’t overuse foreshadowing (or any literary device)
Overusing literary devices can be annoying and tiring to read. When used correctly, foreshadowing can build suspense in your story and make your book a page-turner. But if overused, you may find your reader’s anticipation deflate.
Your book should constantly be moving forward. Your protagonist should always strive to answer their questions.
But if you’re constantly adding little excessive bits of foreshadowing, your protagonist is likely doing a lot of talking (or thinking) and not a lot of action. Foreshadowing foreshadows possible future actions. But if there’s no action, what action can you be foreshadowing?
Make everything you foreshadow relevant to the story
Sprinkling tidbits of foreshadowing is an art like any other. A certain beast that you can either execute well and readers never see it coming, or it can flop and be too obvious or too obscure. Either way, you want to add the tidbits that are worth adding.
Think about how your favorite authors add foreshadowing into their books. Do they just spell it out on the page? Or make some off-the-wall reference you don’t even get after the fact? Likely not, or you wouldn’t even recognize it as foreshadowing to begin with.
Foreshadowing should be short and sweet in the moment, but a worthwhile punch when the foreshadowing comes into light.
Include your foreshadowing in your story outline
Planning is the best policy when it comes to big things in your story, and foreshadowing is a big thing. Foreshadowing adds tension to your plot and scenes and can create a sense of urgency and differing interpretations between your characters.
Two characters can perceive the same scene, or even the same sentence, differently, just like two friends can do the same in—quote—real life.
By adding these bits of tension in your story from the outlining phase, you can plan their direct impact on your plot. You can outline how it impacts your characters between the tidbit and the outcome. You can determine how it leads your characters toward the climax. Or how it doesn’t.
Questions to ask yourself to make sure you’ve included foreshadowing in your story:
- Are there phrases and hints about the future?
- What scene, character, or setting changes hint toward future?
- Do the characters observe something in the present that might become necessary later in the story?
- What objects or story elements become important later that you can introduce earlier in the story?
While foreshadowing can happen anywhere within a story or chapter, you’ll often find it near the beginning of a scene.
But wherever you find it, it’s a deliberate element used to create suspense and build toward future events. It’s a way to make readers believe otherwise completely unrealistic scenes and a key component to exceptional storytelling.
These tips to add foreshadowing into your story will help you write exceptional stories.