What Happens Next?

Hey writers! Let’s talk about foreshadowing and suspense. How can we use these elements to keep our readers glued to the page? What will happen next? Watch this video and find out!

Use Foreshadowing as a Plot-Twist

Think of a secret you don’t want readers or some of your characters to know. Remember that secret as you’re writing and play around with your reader’s expectations. Write in little hints of this secret throughout your story. Add a weird coincidence or two. But only tell us what the secret is when we absolutely must know or when the other characters find out. Then comes the big reveal!

Example: Kim can read minds, but nobody else knows this. The readers don’t know either. There are weird little coincidences and hints throughout – like how she was able to guess what Kevin had for lunch two days ago – but we’re not sure where they lead or what they mean. At the end reveal that Kim has been reading everyone’s minds from the beginning. Her friends and us readers are shocked!

Use Checkhov’s Gun

Chekhov’s Gun is a concept that describes how every element of a story should contribute to the whole. Think of an object or secret at the beginning of the story that will be important later. Introduce readers to that object or secret. Highlight it. Emphasize it. Make it stand out. But keep writing and let your readers forget about it. Don’t focus on it too much. When the time is right, bring that object or secret back and blow readers’ minds! Have it matter to the story in ways readers would have never imagined.

Example: Kim can read minds, and the writer tells us this right away. Not all her friends know, but we do and are wondering why the writer brought that up. Nothing seems to happen right away. It makes for a funny scene and that’s it. The story continues and Kim’s friend, Joe, has $200 stolen from his room. Kim and her friends investigate who could have stolen the money and chase down a bunch of leads. But the money is never found. Near the end of the story Kim and her friends have given up their search of the money and are hanging out at the mall. Joe makes a comment, wondering where the money could have gone, and assumes he lost it. Suddenly, Kim hears somebody think to themselves, I took it. Finally, she discovers the culprit.

This one is a bit trickier to explain, so if you have any questions, just ask. Don’t forget to have fun and experiment. The beauty of writing is that there are no right or wrong paths, so try a few different ones. If you want to share what you’ve written or would like some feedback on your work, please submit your stories to teenwriters@TSCPL.org. Happy writing!

Kody Stadler

Kody is a Youth Librarian who primarily works with teens. He is also a writer and photographer, and drank several cups of coffee while writing this post.