Foreshadowing and Aftershadowing


Foreboding: I got this feeling…

A foreboding is a feeling something bad is going on. Unlike foreshadowing, which hints at actual plot events to come, a foreboding is purely a mood. Because you are playing on atmosphere, creating an ambience, remember to use the senses. A foul smell gives a bad feeling. A creepy sound gives a bad vibe. Something is out of place and it makes no sense. Create an ambience of uneasiness and concern.


Foreshadow: something big is about to happen…

Before anything major happens, you can start by teasing your reader with little hints (also known as foreshadowing) that something is about to happen. This creates suspense. Do this without telling them exactly what will happen and how it will affect your characters. You can choose whether or not you will reveal when it will happen. Keeping it vague allows you to surprise your readers, but a ticking time bomb is an effective way to build up suspense as well. Only foreshadow 2-3 major events per story, to avoid confusing your reader.

What to foreshadow? Reverse your role

Look at the story from the reader point of view, understand his expectations about your characters and events. Think about conflicts and how characters and event may develop. Make sure the reveal is important to the story. (Nobody cares that Timmy’s scar is from that one time he fell off his bike when falling or bikes have nothing to do with the story.) Consider when the reveal with have the biggest impact. Don’t overdo it.

How to foreshadow; hints and clues
  • Unexplained physical habits
  • out- of place remarks
  • weird reactions to objects or events
  • misplaced items
  • unexplained absences
  • unexplained presences
Where to insert foreshadowing into the narrative

In Description: Description of a place establishes setting for the action. Coloured description evokes the appropriate mood for the following action or contrast for surprise.

In Symbolism: For example, a broken bowl followed by a broken heart.

In Parallelism: This contributes to the symmetry in the work but also to a sense of universality of theme which helps makes the action more convincing.

In Dialogue: However random it may seem, it is never irrelevant to the story. For example, the TV program playing in the background foreshadows who the real killer is, in a way the reader won’t even realise until the killer has been revealed.

In Tone: Tone gives a good idea of direction.

How to use foreshadowing to make impossible things believable

Foreshadowing, flash-backs, subplot, they all give characters reasons for their actions, their words, the memories they think of, basically every change in how they see things. Foreshadow whatever unusual talent the protagonist has. This has to occur long before he needs to use it as his last resort.  Why is this important? The reader quits when he feels like you’re giving your protagonist miracle savers, when the story doesn’t follow cause-and-effect. Before the talent is used, the reader must thus be aware of two things.

1 The protagonist has ability X (and the reader has seen them use it in action at least once)
2 Enough hints are sprinkled along the way to the climax moment, to make the use of ability X believable and satisfying.


After-shadowing completes or recalls something that was shown earlier. Foreshadowing provides the setup, after-shadowing brings it home.


Foreshadow -> snakes on the path

After-shadow -> the train hisses

Hill, R. (1977) Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular: An Informal Textbook.