If you are an avid reader, you know that many novelists use foreshadowing to build suspense and keep you turning pages. But you’re a blogger, not a novelist, so you don’t need those literary tricks, do you? Can foreshadowing really do anything to help your blog?

What is Foreshadowing?

Foreshadowing is a literary technique where an apparently useless detail early in the book becomes important later on. It can be as obvious as Harry Potter’s scar or as subtle as a gun mounted over the mantle. It provides subtle hints to readers of what is to come and provides them an “ah hah” moment when the reveal finally arrives.

How Foreshadowing Can Help Your Blog

Many literary techniques that work well in novels, or even short stories, have no place in the non-fiction world of blogging. But foreshadowing can help your blog by making it more engaging. By building a foreshadowing element into your intro paragraph, you hint at the answer to your readers’ central question, without giving away the punch line. It can help you write your “hook” paragraph in a way that captures a reader’s curiosity and gets them to click that coveted “read more” button.

In an informational blog, this might be a reference to an example you intend to use. It could also suggest that a particular tool could be an answer to the problem facing your readers.

Foreshadow Like You Mean It

There is a right way and a wrong way to write foreshadowing. Playwright and short story writer Anton Chekhov once famously said:

“If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

The same is true in blogs. When every word counts, you should be intentional with your foreshadowing. Illustrations and examples are often the key to explaining difficult concepts. But you shouldn’t just throw in a racy image for the sake of getting clicks. It needs to tie in to your topic somehow.

Foreshadowing in Blogging Is a Little Different

Foreshadowing can be an excellent tool to write a compelling opening paragraph, but it doesn’t work exactly the same as Chekhov’s gun. Informational blogs don’t have the luxury of hiding the relevance of an item until Act 3. Blog readers have a relatively short attention span. Research suggests you only have about 6 minutes to make your point. That doesn’t leave much time to hide the ball and reveal it later.

Foreshadowing in a blog introduces a topic in the lead-in paragraph, then goes back to put the issue in context. For a law blog, this may be explaining the legal background or describing the facts of a case. A few paragraphs later, once the stage is set, the foreshadowed element comes back to explain how this topic relates to the reader.

Foreshadowing can be an excellent tool for writing blog articles that people want to read, if it is done well. By referencing an image, example, or key point in your first paragraph, you can get users to read on and engage with your content.

Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She provides blogging and web content for lawyers and small businesses. If you need help creating engaging online content, contact Legal Linguist to schedule a meeting.