Foreshadowing and Plot Twists

Hello, Write Owls! Welcome to Day 28 of Storytelling 101. Today we’re talking about foreshadowing and plot twists.

Foreshadowing is the hints you put in your story that build up to an event, reveal, plot twist, or ending. You want your foreshadowing to be subtle. Readers aren’t stupid, and they don’t like it when you make your hints super obvious. They like the challenge of trying to figure things out on their own. You also don’t want to exclude foreshadowing altogether. Otherwise, your readers will be upset when something happens and they don’t understand why. When you have a big reveal or a plot twist or you get to the end of your story, your reader should be able to look back and see all the hints that lead up to it. It’s okay if readers guess the reveal, ending, etc. even if you’re subtle. It means they were paying attention to your clues.

You also want to start your foreshadowing early. Don’t foreshadow a plot twist a few pages before it happens. Leave hints early on in the story.

A plot twist is when something unexpected happens that significantly changes the story. This can be a big reveal, a surprise ending, whatever. A classic example is at the end of The Empire Strikes Back when Luke finds out Darth Vader is his father. Another well-known one is in The Princess Bride when Buttercup learns the identity of the Man in Black. Another example of a twist is when the readers get more than they expect. You can promise them something and then give them something even better (Sanderson). Plot twists are best when they escalate the stakes.

If you want to distract a reader from the clues leading up to a plot twist, there are two different methods you can use. One is dropping hints when the reader’s attention is focused on something else. The other is making your reader think the story is going in one direction when it’s really going in another. You want to be careful with this method because your readers will be upset if they become too emotionally invested in the false direction, or red herring (Moreci).

These are the basics of foreshadowing and plot twists. If you have any questions about these topics, please leave them in the comments; and I’ll try to answer them as a reply since there is no Q&A on Saturday.

Discussion Questions:

Feel free to answer these in the comments if you want to chime in!

1) Do you enjoy well-written plot twists?

2) What’s your favorite plot twist? Don’t spoil it. Just tell us which book/movie/show it’s in.

Works Cited

Moreci, Jenna. “How to Write a Plot Twist.” YouTube, uploaded by Jenna Moreci, 8 June 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpNTX2O9xa0

Sanderson, Brandon. “Let’s Talk About Twists.” YouTube, uploaded by Brandon Sanderson, 4 February 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZXBKbg9p4E

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