Foreshadowing and Pacing

These two topics came up in last Saturday’s circle and I’d like to share some afterthoughts about them.

Foreshadowing is the practice of strategically dropping hints throughout storytelling to give readers a chance to make educated guesses about how the story will unfold. It can be a very effective way to engage readers because foreshadowing can create a satisfying sense of collaboration. On a subliminal level, foreshadowing can be an immersive way to welcome readers into helping authors tell their stories. It also appeals to the intelligence of the reader.

One way to implement foreshadowing is to constantly look around the scene and relate deeply to ambient details. Symbols and dreams fulfill this purpose in handy ways. For example, say a character keeps noticing certain numbers and either does or does not decide to play the lottery and the numbers win.

Pacing refers to the overall rhythm of storytelling. It involves a very delicate dance between getting to the point and providing sufficient sensory, emotional, and factual details in order to maximize the dramatic effect. Look for organic ways to suspend tension and keep readers wondering about outcomes while providing opportunities to explore a full range of emotions.

Thinking Like a Writer





“A drawing is just a line going for a walk.”

Chalk on bathroom wall in café

Write a Book About Your Business is a class I’ve taught through the Small Business Administration in San Francisco. Recently, I was wrapping up a session with four highly motivated and productive businesswomen. Their lines of business were finance, restaurants, gymnastics, and education. Five minutes before we were scheduled to wrap up, a fifth woman entered and disrupted our space to the extent that I had to ask her to leave. I was shaken by this experience and had the following thought about two hours later:

Everyone who speaks wants to be heard.

As a writer, I think in the language of writing. The disruptive woman became a character who insisted on being heard. This connection has made me contemplate when this shift happened—the one that turned thoughts into full-blown descriptions of people, places, and things. In other words, was there a precise moment when adjectives and adverbs took over? Would the disruptive woman be merely a woman to someone who does not write?

Thinking in the language of writing is similar to learning any other idiom. At some point, one ceases word-for-word translation and thoughts flow so fluently that the training wheels fall off. The thought, “I’m writing a story,” dematerializes. Somehow, the narrative voice speaks specifically through paragraphs, dialogue, and chapters.

Readers, please feel free to share your positive thoughts at the bottom of this page.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *