Little Did She Know…

By Britt Malka / February 21, 2018

“Little did Anne know when she went to bed that night that a zombie would rip her heart out a few hours later.”

R.I.P. heroine.

And R.I.P. book. Because that's a horrible way to foreshadow future events.

So how do you use foreshadowing in a more subtle and much more efficient way?

Strangely, there aren't really any books about this topic

Not stand-alone books at least. I just did a search on Amazon and found a couple of books that dealt with a lot of fiction writing techniques, including foreshadowing. That's it. Only a couple.

And that's in spite of foreshadowing, done right, is a valuable device in a writer's toolbox.

The Write Practice has a helpful article about the topic. It's called “How to Use Foreshadowing Like a Master Storyteller“, and the author recommends using foreshadowing in two ways:

  • By dropping hints.
  • By repeating important stuff.

If you're writing mysteries, you're probably already familiar with the first kind of foreshadowing, but using repetition was new to me.

The article also contains an exercise you can do – many times – to practice and become better at foreshadowing:

Foreshadowing takes a lot of time and set up, so make your plot twists a little easier on yourself by writing a brief outline for your “grand reveal.” Take fifteen minutes to prepare for foreshadowing in your story.

First, figure out what your big surprise is going to be in your story. Once you’ve decided on that, decide how you’re going to leave clues along the way, all the way from your first page to the last one. Finally, set milestones for yourself so you have some direction.

Try that next time you sit down to write.

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