Writing tip – How to Foreshadow

The art of foreshadowing is subtle, and yet it’s also a craft that will add depth to your story. Foreshadowing can create atmosphere and cohesion between different parts of your story, by setting up the oncoming events to build expectation and keep your readers invested in the story. Though it is a vital aspect of story crafting, writers may struggle with using it to its full advantage.

Writing tips blog banner

What is foreshadowing?

Foreshadowing prepares the reader, if only subconsciously, for what is to unravel in the story later. It is not out-rightly revealing. The difference is subtlety. Its about hinting, laying bread-crumbs to guide the reader towards the outcome. That way, your readers still gains the element of surprise, but they don’t feel cheated.

One of the most important places to add foreshadowing is undoubtedly the first chapter. Here you should use foreshadowing to ease the transition between the setup and big plot points. It sets the tone for the rest of the novel, and adds clues as to what’s about to transpire. Whether your world has magic, death, or romance. A single sentence, the setting or perhaps even a symbol, will deliberately create dimension within the story.

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels.com

This is important for two reasons: Firstly, to satisfy the reader with the payoff by delivering on earlier promises. Meaning, anything set up in Act One, should come about in the Final Act. And secondly, to lead the reader to conclusions about the rest of the story. Meaning, if you introduce two main characters for romance, make sure you deliver on their Happy Ever After or Happy For Now sending.

Remember: its a subtle hint, not an outright telling. You can hint at the theme, reveal the tone of the story through setting, or even have it mentioned through dialogue. For example: If your heroine is about to set off an an epic adventure, having a side character hint at their Character arc, is a clever way of feeding the reader information, without being too overt.

All foreshadowing needs the payoff or promise delivery. So only include pieces that are relevant, and significant to prevent the reader from feeling confused or cheated out of a story line. Foreshadowing prevents coincidental reveals, a sudden or unexpected shift in tone, and outlandish plot twists.

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

Any subplots can be delicately foreshadowed in later chapters. These can be hidden in the story (slightly invisible and almost forgettable), so that the reader won’t even pick up on them. These are indirect foreshadowing, such as symbols, or a banal statement, and are usually only realized once the promise has been fulfilled.

Foreshadowing is a skill and usually takes time to understand, and or develop in your writing. Often foreshadowing is added into the story at the revision stage. Once you’ve written the whole story, you can better understand what influences the direction of your story and where to place the hints, and promises, to prevent coincidences. Carefully, precisely and artfully, layering the foreshadowing to give the reader cohesion and satisfaction.

Fantasy writer Lorraine Ambers blog banner

Do you have any tips on foreshadowing? Perhaps you are still developing the skill in your writing and would like to understand the topic more. Please share your thoughts, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

Pinterest    Instagram    Twitter    Facebook

© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.

16 thoughts on “Writing tip – How to Foreshadow

  1. I’d like to think that I foreshadow with a bit of finesse, but now that I’m in the editing phase, it feels as though I’m smacking my readers in the face with a baseball bat. Gah, more practice is needed, is what it is. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  2. I agree that foreshadowing is best done with iterations – such as dropping hints in book one while creating an early draft of book two. But it’s also something the writer him/herself may be a poor judge of, given they know the story inside out.
    I think the first time when one can judge this in any way is during beta stages, if the reader makes anote/comment about something, and the writer can only grin with ‘you have no idea’ feeling.

    Like

  3. How do you always give me what I need at exactly the right time?! I’m editing at the moment, and trying to make sure my foreshadowing works, and is subtle but too subtle. I love this advice, Rainy! xx

    Like

  4. Hi Lorraine! I am a mystery novel writer and I struggle with foreshadowing sometimes. I want to add all these subtle clues but I am afraid it would give away the surprise element to the readers before it is time to reveal it. Is there a way to combat that?

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.