What bigger goal can a writer have than to keep your readers turning those pages, desperate to find out what happens next? Foreshadowing is a technique that can help you accomplish this objective. Remember being a kid, reading a book that you absolutely couldn’t put down, and suddenly it was–bedtime? Did you hide under the covers, reading by flashlight, because you just knew something exciting was about to happen? That built-up anticipation was probably caused by the author’s superlative use of foreshadowing.
Foreshadowing can be accomplished subtly, by using a description of the setting for example, or overtly, via dialogue and first person narration. The following excerpts from Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills are used for illustration.
Using setting in foreshadowing:
Even though I was afraid, following a treasure map and investigating caves sounded so adventurous that at the stroke of midnight I found myself following Kat outside. Creaky wooden stairs led down the rocky hillside behind her house to their private beach. Sliding my hand along the rough rail, I hoped that the worst thing that would happen to me tonight would be getting a splinter in my palm.
Silver-gray clouds slid past the moon, casting huge shadows on the sand. All too soon we reached the end of the staircase and I smelled the stench of dead mussels clinging to rocks. A cold breeze kissed my cheek as if to wish me luck. Or to warn me.
Violent waves slammed ocean water against the sand. Each pounding crash sounded like a car accident. Pausing with my shoe still touching the last stair, I wondered if there was any way to talk Kat out of this. I figured that following her was better than getting lost on the beach in the dark, so I stumbled after her, scared to death.
Would the worst thing that happened to our heroine be getting a splinter in her palm? Probably not. The cold breeze seemed to be warning her of something. What? Something worse than the car accident that the crashing waves alluded to, or to getting lost on the beach in the dark?
Using dialogue in foreshadowing:
“My new friend was amazing. “What’s Wiccan?” I mouthed.
She looked around. No one was listening.
“Witchcraft.” She waited to see how I’d react, then continued. “I’ll sleep over Saturday night and introduce you.”
“OK. I’ll ask. Introduce me to what?”
Kat looked at me. “Everything Wiccan. I know all about it. And I’ll let you in.”
A nervous tingle shot down my spine. My brain was spinning. I decided to put my plan to escape from Malibu on hold for now.
An uninvited Saturday night sleep-over where Skylar gets introduced to witchcraft? Skylar was nervous and her brain was spinning. Surely something interesting would happen on Saturday night, wouldn’t it?
Using first person narration in foreshadowing:
Heading for Malibu on a sunny Saturday in June would normally have been a good thing. I could have spent the day bodysurfing with my BFF, Alexa, and playing games in the arcade on the Santa Monica pier. If I was totally lucky I might have shared a bumper car with Dustin Coles, the cutest boy going into Pacific Middle School. Alexa and I liked to lie in the sun and watch surfers ride the waves on Zuma beach. If there were pinball and corndogs ahead of me instead of what I was in for, I would have begged my dad for a ride down the coast. But today? Not so much.
If I’d gotten out of the car right then and spread out my beach towel, everything might have turned out fine. But my dad kept right on driving.
Apparently, everything didn’t turn out fine. ‘Tween readers who enjoy going to the beach, watching surfers, eating corndogs, or playing video games should already have an affinity with the protagonist. If she’d gotten out of the car right then, everything might have turned out fine. But her dad kept right on driving. What happened to her?
Foreshadowing helps to create suspense; so whatever your genre, hinting at exciting events to come will keep your readers intrigued, staying up later than intended, reading just one more chapter.
Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills is on sale now on Amazon, or message me for a personally autographed copy plus a FREE pair of kids binoculars using the contact form on my website. My second Skylar Robbins novel, The Mystery of the Hidden Jewels, will be available on Amazon on Read Tuesday, December 9th. More advice for aspiring writers can be found on my website.