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How To Write Foreshadowing That Hooks Readers | Writer’s Relief


How To Write Foreshadowing That Hooks Readers | Writer’s Relief

Every writer’s goal is to grab and hold their readers’ attention from the very first word to the last. Once your audience has eagerly started turning pages, how do you ensure they stick around until the end? One of the best ways to keep your readers engaged is to use foreshadowing. This literary device allows you to build tension by leaving a subtle trail of clues that will maintain your readers’ interest. The experts at Writer’s Relief have some great tips on how to write foreshadowing that hooks your readers.

How To Write Effective Foreshadowing

Plan Ahead

Use an outline to plan your narrative so you know the full story arc: You can’t leave hints and warnings if you don’t know what happens next! Lead up to and build from  the twists that need to happen for the story and characters to develop. Carefully scattered clues or understated phrases can intrigue your audience and make them suspect something’s up.

Plant Seeds Early

The best foreshadowing starts early in the story. Good plot development is all about buildup, so be sure to point your reader in the right direction early on—but that doesn’t mean give everything away on page one. Instead, give your readers a nudge and let them put the pieces together. Create some questions in the reader’s mind that will linger and become more important as the story develops.

Use In Moderation

A barrage of foreshadowing can ruin your story. Having too many suspicious things to track will wear out your reader. Scatter your foreshadowing seeds carefully and sparingly. Think of it like adding salt to your food: You want just enough to enhance the flavor without it becoming too overpowering. A little goes a long way! And be careful that your foreshadowing efforts don’t result in spoilers—don’t give anything away.

Ways To Incorporate Foreshadowing

Dialogue: Foreshadowing can occur in an offhand comment, joke, or short exchange between characters. Even something implied or left unsaid can raise a flag for readers. Written correctly, dialogue can build character, establish relationships, advance the plot, AND give a little hint as to what comes next.

Setting: Your story’s location could be the perfect canvas to paint a sense of foreboding for your readers. You can build tension in the room right before something happens or draw attention to a specific location or element. Your character might pocket a knife left on the table, or your protagonist might trip over a broken step that later will cause someone to fall and break a leg. Nudge your reader into preparing for an upcoming plot point.

Description: You can foreshadow by describing something that will have a big impact later in the story. For example, if your character encounters the murder weapon before the crime takes place, be sure to mention it, even if it’s just to note the candlestick on the mantel in the library with Mrs. Peacock. Or perhaps at the beginning of the story your hero notices the bedroom door lock isn’t working, but barely gives it another thought.

Character traits: Be sure to foreshadow any character traits that will have a big impact on later events. If you have an impulsive character who will make a rash decision later in the story, let us know beforehand by showing how they recklessly cross the street or blurt out a thoughtless remark in front of the boss. Or a character who is deceptively nice might show a small crack in their façade early in the story through an outwardly polite—but unnecessary—complaint to a waiter.

Foreshadowing is a very effective way to keep your readers hooked and engaged throughout your story. Be sure to tie up any loose ends and address any foreshadowing you include; don’t introduce an element that amounts to nothing when the story’s done. You don’t want to leave your readers scratching their heads and wondering if there was a reason for her picking up the knife, or why he noticed the candlestick, or how come the broken door lock was never mentioned again.

Once you’ve edited, proofread, and checked that your foreshadowing is all accounted for, it’s time to submit your writing for publication! Our research specialists and submission strategists can help you target the best markets for your work and boost your odds of getting published. Ninety percent of our short story and poetry clients have garnered an acceptance with our help! Learn more about our services and submit your writing sample today!


Question: What is your favorite example of foreshadowing in a story or novel?

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