In the dark of the night, Tommy heard footsteps from down below. With his heart in his mouth, he tiptoed into the living room and groped about. Thunder roared and lightning flashed outside, making him jump. There was no reason to be afraid, but the text messages he had received indicated otherwise. “You’re next,” his last message from an anonymous number read.
In the dark of the night, Tommy heard footsteps from down below. Little did he know that the criminal was waiting for him in the living room.
Which paragraph do you think is better? I am sure many of you will agree it is paragraph 1! What you have just witnessed here are two examples of a writing technique called foreshadowing.
So what is foreshadowing?
Foreshadowing is when the writer provides a hint beforehand to let the reader infer what is going to happen in the story. It’s best to foreshadow in stories with a lot of mystery and suspense, or when something terrible is going to happen. Foreshadowing in stories entitled: A Fire, A Dangerous Act, or A Dilemma help bring out the potential danger the main character will face! Since foreshadowing gives a hint about what will happen later, foreshadowing ought to be done at the beginning of the story.
Many young writers do like to foreshadow and there are various ways you can do it to indicate that something terrible is about to happen in the story. Some of you may already be using phrases like the ones below to carry out foreshadowing in your stories:
“Little did he know…” or
“It would be so very terrible if Tommy were to cheat in the test…”
Today, to take your foreshadowing skills to the next level, I would like to invite you to think like a detective and leave clues for the reader to guess what would happen next!
1. Place a warning that happens at the start of the story
The easiest way to foreshadow would be to include a warning at the start of the story. Let’s say we’re writing a story entitled “A Dangerous Act”, and the picture included in the question is the ()swimming pool. Perhaps a sign at the start of the story would say:
Using the sign as a clue to tell the readers about what would happen later, this is how a paragraph at the earlier part of the story will look like:
Can you guess what is the problem in this story? If you are thinking along the lines of the main character swimming in the deep end or nearly drowning, you are absolutely right! In fact, this paragraph included a verbal warning from another character, the coach, on top of the warning from the physical sign and these two clues serve to give you an idea of the terrible event coming up.
If the character is exploring the forest or a nature reserve, some signs may include:
Warning: Park closes at 6pm, or…
“No loitering after 6pm”.
In this way, the reader will be able to get a hint that the character will probably disobey one of these rules and end up in trouble.
2. Use the weather to foreshadow what would happen
In certain cases, some pictures or stories allow the writer to use the weather to foreshadow. Some topics such as “A Storm”, “A Sweltering Day” or pictures like a glass of lemonade or an umbrella could possibly help the writer with foreshadowing, too. Here’s an example of using the weather to foreshadow.
Here, we foreshadow how the weather affected Angela to show that she would suffer from heatstroke later.
You can also show that a storm was coming to foreshadow that something bad was going to happen.
3. Include feelings and actions that show what will cause the horrible event to happen later
Let’s say you’re writing about sitting for a test. You could show the audience how you felt in order to foreshadow what would happen later:
Remember to use a power-up word: Anxious
Detail how you felt on the inside: Heart thumped furiously against my chest, would not be able to do the sums, mind reeled.
Detail how you felt on the outside: palms sweated; gulped tried taking in deep breaths but to no avail
These feelings show how you become more and more anxious about not having studied for the test, culminating in the temptation to cheat. You can write it like this:
Alternatively, if you have difficulties showing how the character feels on the inside, you may want to focus on the character’s actions to show how his or her actions led to the problem.
In one story that I was marking, one of the students wanted to write that Mr Tan, an office worker, had lost his wallet by leaving it at the sink. This was what she wrote:
Little did he know what would happen next. When Mr Tan left the toilet, he realised that his wallet was gone!
Here’s what she could have done instead:
Do you see how the actions that showed Mr Tan rushing contributed to what would happen in the end?
To be more effective, you can also put at least two techniques together to create a suspenseful atmosphere.
If you read the first paragraph, you’ll realise that all these techniques have been used! Let’s point them out:
Do you see how I can combine all three techniques together in one paragraph? I left clues by:
Showing how Tommy felt on the inside and his actions
Using the weather to create an atmosphere that something bad would happen
Using the phone message to suggest that a warning was already sent to Tommy
Remember if it’s too hard, you can always use the technique you find easiest to foreshadow. Get a start and improve on it gradually as you write!
Do you know of other ways to foreshadow? Let us know in the comments!