Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

This post is the seventeenth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Last week, I discussed adding in bits and pieces of your characters’ back story to your novel. It can add intrigue while making your characters believable. Today, I want to talk about another technique that can add tension and suspense to your story – though in a different way. That way is by foreshadowing.

Foreshadowing is a way of indicating or hinting at what will come later. It can be subtle (such as storm clouds on the horizon suggesting the danger that is coming) or more direct (like Romeo and Juliet talking about wanting to die rather than live without each other).

Foreshadowing can be used to build suspense or to prepare the reader for impending events without revealing too much of what is to come.

Without foreshadowing, readers have no expectations because you haven’t provided them with any. Since many beginning (and even some veteran) authors struggle with foreshadowing, I wanted to offer these tips.

  • Make sure the incident needs foreshadowing. Not every event needs it and overusing it will cause the effect to be lost on the reader. It should only be used for the major events in your novel.
  • Remember to follow through on the foreshadowing. If you introduce a gun (or a mystic stone), it will need to appear as an important piece of the story or your reader will feel cheated.
  • If you are building suspense, your foreshadowing should be more obvious since it is key to the suspense. If you are merely setting up a situation for later, you may want the foreshadowing to be almost invisible to the reader. Think of this as planting clues that the reader may miss but when they think back about it will realize they were significant to the event they were pointing to.
  • Carefully consider the timing of the foreshadowing. It needs to be far enough in advance to tip off the reader but not so far ahead that the reader forgets about it. If you are using it for suspense, remember not to drag it out for too long or the reader will disengage from the suspense building.
  • Don’t forget that you can also use foreshadowing to deliberately mislead the readers. You can make them believe that X is about to happen when really Y happens instead.
  • Since foreshadowing is tough to do – you don’t want it too obvious or too subtle – this is a good time to use a beta reader. Something that you feel might be obvious may not be clear to your readers.
  • A lot of foreshadowing is done after your first draft is written. It might be easiest to plan for foreshadowing by selecting the events you want to foreshadow and then work backwards to incorporate the foreshadowing in the preceding chapters.  A small event may only need a little foreshadowing while a major event that occurs near the end of the novel may be hinted at and alluded to almost from the beginning.

Foreshadowing can be a tricky business and how you use it – heavy-handed or subtle – is up to you. The best way to learn about foreshadowing techniques is to observe them in the books you read and movies you watch. And, of course, by practice in your own writing.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

8 things you shouldn’t say to your kids

Parenting is hard sometimes. Kids try your patience with their interruptions or constant questions. Sometimes parents say the wrong things whether it is in frustration or just without fully thinking before we speak.

A while back, I read this article from Parenting.com and while much of it was geared toward talking to your toddler, many of the points made are valid even for older kids. I know I am guilty of doing a few of these and often regret my actions later.

So here are 8 things they recommend you not say your child revised a little more for the older kids.

“Leave me alone” or “I’m busy”

I am guilty of saying this to my daughter usually after she has interrupted me for the hundredth time about something she saw in a video. (Cute dog or funny trick – not something serious.) And sometimes I do feel guilty for turning her away. I don’t want her to think I don’t have time for her. And that is what the article talked about. If we brush our kids off all the time, they will be less likely to come tell you things when they are older.

I try not brush the kids aside too often or at least give them a time when I will be free. “I really need to finish this email, then I will answer your question (or get them ice cream or watch the funny video or whatever).”

“You’re so…”

Labels are often shortcuts that shortchange kids: “Why are you so mean to your sister?” Or “How could you be such a klutz?” And sometimes kids over hear us talking to others: “He is my shy kid.”

I have mentioned to others that Jase is my shy, reserved child and Lexie is what I call my rule-tester. But when I say this it has typically been to other parents when the kids are not around. Now that they are older, we have had a few discussions about the different ways they approach things like rules.

The article talks about young kids believing what they hear without question and that negative labels can become self-fulfilling. Their suggestion is to address the specific behavior and leave the adjectives about your child’s personality out of it.

“Don’t cry.”

Variations could be “Don’t be sad,” “Don’t be a baby,” or “There is no reason to be afraid.” Now as I said, the article was written with toddlers in mind, so it is true that they often cry because they cannot articulate their feelings with words. But really all kids can be sad or frightened sometimes. Telling them to not be sad or afraid won’t make things better.

Rather than deny their feelings, you should acknowledge them. Especially with young kids you need to help them learn to express themselves.

“Why can’t you be more like…”

It is hard not to compare your child to siblings or friends. But comparing your child do someone else is never a good thing. Your child is herself, not her brother or classmate. Kids develop at their own pace and have their own temperament and personality. Comparing your child to another implies you wish they were different.

And comparisons do not help change behavior.

Jase and Lexie are so different that we seldom compare one to the other though Lexie does often ask questions about who walked first, lost more teeth or some other milestone accomplishment. But then again, she is always looking at ways that she is unique.

“You know better than that!”

We sometimes assume our kids understand what we want or what they are supposed to do. But do they? Not always. As parents, I think we sometimes forget that our kids don’t always think of the consequences of their actions. Sometimes they don’t know better. Learning is a process of trial and error. And even if they made the same mistake just yesterday, this comment is neither productive nor supportive.

“Wait till Daddy gets home!”

This is a parenting cliché is not only a threat but a diluted form of discipline. To be effective, you need to take care of a situation immediately. Discipline that is postponed does not connect the consequences to your child’s actions. By the time Dad gets home, your child may have forgotten what he/she did wrong. Also passing off the dispensing of punishment to someone else undermines your authority.

“Hurry up!”

OMG – I certainly have used this one quite often. As I utter these words, Lexie begins to feel panicked and doesn’t seem to move any faster. In fact, in her haste, she seems to make more mistakes. This phrase only makes your child feel guilty and as I said, doesn’t motivate them to move faster. Instead of the last image your kid sees in the morning is of you yelling, find ways to speed things along without the panic.

“Great job!”

I’m sure are wondering what could be wrong with giving praise. After all, shouldn’t we want to give positive reinforcement to our kids? The trouble with this praise is it is vague and when used too often, it becomes meaningless and kids will tune it out.

The article suggested to praise only those accomplishments that require real effort, be specific (“I like the colors you used”) and praise the behavior rather than the child (“you put a lot of time researching for this project”).

As with any article on parenting, you have to take the advice and adapt or modify it to your situation. And of course, there is always the option of ignoring it completely. Now I won’t do that last one but this article has given me some things to consider.

Sneak Peek at BLOOD BOND by Susan Leigh Noble

My latest book, Blood Bond, is nearing completion. Here is an excerpt to whet your appetite.

Note: Rakkah, Warnox, Dex and Barth are all dragons. Soren is a human and can communicate with the dragons telepathically.


Soren scrambled to his feet as the golden dragon, Rakkah, landed near him. For a moment, they stared at each other.

“You shouldn’t be bonded to Dex,” she said, her voice reverberating in his head as she flicked her tail.

“It wasn’t by choice,” he said speaking to her within her mind.

He didn’t like the feeling of being trapped with the tree behind his back and stepped away from it. He carefully kept Rakkah in front of him as he moved.

“That matters not.” She walked around him, her eyes traveling over his body. “Definitely not worthy to be a dragon rider.”

Pride had him lifting his chin. “Maybe not but Dex said I was the one to help bridge man and dragon.”

“Is that what he told you? Did he tell you about the others?” She studied him, before chuckling. “I can tell by the look on your face he didn’t. You weren’t the first one he approached you know. There were others. He settled for you.”

Soren shook his head. “No that isn’t true. He said he had a feeling I was the one.”

“A smooth line if I ever heard one,” she said. “I’ll let you in on something. If he said that, it was him manipulating you. There were others who turned him down. He was under time pressure, so he settled for you. And it is only by accident he is now linked to you. I am sure he would rather not be. I know I would.” She flicked her tail. “Take Warnox up on his offer. It will be better for everyone.”

He shook his head. “I don’t…”

Before he could continue, Rakkah’s words sunk in and his bewilderment turned to anger. His heart pounded, and his shoulders shook. And then Dex was there. The red dragon faced Rakkah, slashing his own tail as he shield Soren from the golden dragon. Soren couldn’t hear anything but was sure words were exchanged between the two as they circled each other, their eyes locked. Suddenly, Rakkah leapt into the air. Dex turned to Soren.

“I don’t know what Rakkah said to you, but I could feel your confusion…and your anger.”

“Tell me the truth,” Soren said, his fists clinched. “Was I your first choice?”

“My first choice? Choice for what?”

“To help you approach the King.”

Dex stared at him for a moment before looking down. “You weren’t the first I approached, but Soren…”

He didn’t wait to hear any more. He walked toward Warnox and the other dragons. With each step, his anger grew. He could still hear Rakkah’s taunting voice. She had been right. He wasn’t Dex’s first choice. He had lied to him about being the one the dragons needed. He shook his head as if to clear the thoughts away. But they persisted, and he quickly covered the distance to the other dragons and to his freedom.

“Take me back to Ballinger,” he said to Warnox.

The brown dragon regarded him for a moment. “You can ride on Barth. Mount up. It is time to go.”

Soren briefly recoiled at the thought of riding without a harness but reassured himself it would only be a short distance. Barth bent down, and he scrambled onto his back.

“Soren?” Dex asked, his voice cautious.

He didn’t respond or even look at Dex as Barth took off, following the other dragons into the air. He grabbed for the harness before realizing it wasn’t there. His hands searched for something to hold on to but found nothing. As Barth leveled out, Soren resisted the urge to look at the ground far below.

“Are you sure this is what you want?” Barth asked.

Soren hesitated. “Yes. It is for the best. I am not meant to be a dragon rider.”

“Can you sense Dex from here?”

Soren felt unsettled but couldn’t determine if it was his own feeling or if it came from Dex too. As he concentrated, he could feel Dex’s anxiety.

“He is worried,” he admitted reluctantly.

You shouldn’t be able to connect with him at this distance,” Barth said. “He told me how far apart you two have been when you have communicated. It is farther than any other linked pair.”

Soren watched Warnox and the other dragons disappear before his eyes, Blinking back to the City of Ballinger. He knew Barth would follow suit in a moment and felt a twinge of regret.

“You shouldn’t be doing this,” Barth said.

Suddenly, the brown dragon dove toward the ground, flipping over in the air. Soren’s fingers tried to grasp onto Barth’s back but there was nothing to hold. He fell through the air toward the ground. He saw Barth above him and then nothing but the blue sky as Barth Blinked.

Book Blurb

Man severed the alliance with the dragons fifty years ago. But now an invading army marches north destroying everything in its path. The dragons believe only together can the invaders be defeated. They need an emissary.

Womanizer. Drunk. Failure. Soren is many things. A leader isn’t one of them. But, Dex, the dragon who saves him from a cliff, believes different. Thrust into an adventure he never wanted, Soren’s life changes forever when during a battle Dex’s dragon blood mixes with his blood creating a mystical blood bond – forever linking them.

As the bond strengthens, Soren must decide whether to return to his old life or accept the bond and embrace his role in the battle against the invading army.

Blood Bond will be released in February 6, 2018.


Thanksgiving: A time to say thanks…

As has been my tradition, I am taking today (Thanksgiving here in the United States) to thank some very important people.

Thank you…

to my readers. I hope you enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoy writing them.

Thank you…

to those who have written reviews, hosted me on their websites or supported me on Twitter, Tribber, or Facebook, I appreciate everyone of you!

Thank you…

to those who follow or read my blog. I hope you have found some interesting or helpful information here.

Thank you...

to my family for the love and support in my writing career. I would not be able to do any of this without you!

Now get off the computer (or your phone) and get back to your Thanksgiving Day activities….