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Use Foreshadowing to Keep Readers Reading

How to Keep Readers Attention With Foreshadowing PinterestThe trick to writing good fiction is giving readers a reason to keep turning pages. Your goal is to tantalize them with the promise that good things are yet to come, and one of the best ways to accomplish this is to use foreshadowing.

As the word itself suggests, foreshadowing casts a shadow of things to come across the early chapters of the book. Readers can only see a vague outline of what’s coming, but because they know something’s coming, they wait with bated breath to find out what it is.

An Example of How to Use Subtle Foreshadowing

Daphne du Maurier’s multi-generational saga Hungry Hill follows an aristocratic Irish family down through the 19th century. The book opens when the family patriarch John Brodrick is finagling the financing of a copper mine he wants to install on the beautiful, pastoral Hungry Hill.

The opening of the mine itself is a straightforward event, but du Maurier skillfully weaves a web of foreboding around the mine and its future, leading the reader to sense that great tragedy will befall this family if the mine is installed as planned.

Much of the story that follows is unrelated to the mine. It meanders leisurely through the years and the family’s various episodic misadventures. As a result, the book could easily have lost its focus and its interest for readers.

2 Questions to Strengthen How You Use Foreshadowing

Because du Maurier spread a layer of foreshadowing at the very beginning of the book, readers know more is yet to come—and they keep reading.

If you find your story flagging, ask yourself:

1. Have you given readers a reason to keep reading?

2. Do they know grand things are yet to come?

If not, consider inserting some strategic foreshadowing into earlier scenes.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! How do you use foreshadowing early in your story to promise readers good things are coming? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Anonymous says

    I know when I’m reading a book and I find that I “think” something interesting or exciting is going to happen later on…it keeps me from wanting to put the book down.

  2. A deft use of foreshadowing is what makes a book a page turner!

  3. Excellent post. This is something I need to work on.

  4. The nifty thing about foreshadowing is that you can always go back and insert it later!

  5. Foreshadowing attached to an intersting character keeps me turning the pages.

  6. Secrets in the character’s past is what always grabs me. Hint at a secret, and I’ll be turning pages like crazy!

  7. Another great one!

    Forshadowing is extremely important to keep the pages turning ;o) Love this series of vlogs. Great job ;o)

  8. Foreshadowing adds a whole new depth to an otherwise straightforward story. Great stuff!

  9. Loved this! I love it myself when authors use foreshadowing. Great blog, thanks for mentioning it. I’m following! Renae

  10. Thanks for stopping in! Foreshadowing is one of ours secret weapons. Ssh! 😉

  11. I do this a lot in my writing. It might be because I don’t write down long plot notes before I write and I’m impatient and want to get the good stuff into the story early and so I foreshadow (almost as a reminder to myself). Probably the wrong way to go about it, but so far it seems to work. lol.

  12. Whatever works for you is always right! I work the other way around: I outline first so I know when and where I’ll need to foreshadow.

  13. I know prologues are sort of taboo, but what if I use a cut scene from a suspenseful event later in the plot?
    My idea is to show (from pov of the main characters boyfriend)her boyfriend as he finds her limp and unconscious on the floor. It is filled with foreshadowing (or would it be back-shadowing?) and is left as a cliff hanger. I love how it turned out and it would be awkward anywhere else in the story, but no one seems to like a prologue..

  14. I’ve seen this used very successfully. The key, though, is to keep the scene brief. Give the reader just enough that he’ll want to know what in tarnation is going on. Then cut back to the beginning of your story.

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