Write Stronger Stories by Foreshadowing Everything

Far too many novices write screenplays that consist of scenes that serve one purpose and then get discarded and forgotten. The key to writing scenes, especially early in the story, is to make scenes foreshadow the ending.

In “Top Gun: Maverick,” there’s an early training scene where Maverick is trying to shoot down a plane and Rooster rushes to the rescue, saving his wingman but sacrificing himself in the process. Watch this scene below.

Then near the end when Maverick and Rooster are completing a dangerous mission, Maverick gets shot down by sacrificing his plane to protect Rooster. However, Rooster returns to shoot down a helicopter that’s trying to kill Maverick, and then gets shot down by a missile afterwards.

Notice that this later scene is exactly foreshadowed by the earlier training scene:

  • Rooster will save other people
  • In the process, Rooster will sacrifice himself

In the training scene, Rooster saves his wingman by sacrificing himself. Then in the later scene, Rooster saves Maverick by sacrificing himself.

Study any great movie and you’ll see how earlier scenes foreshadow later scenes. In “Back to the Future,” an early scene shows Marty punching Biff. Then a later scene shows George (Marty’s dad) punching Biff.

An even earlier scene shows Marty skateboarding through town by catching a ride behind cars. After Marty punches Biff, he escapes by skateboarding around town by grabbing the backs of cars.

Watch a favorite movie and look for how early scenes foreshadow future events in later scenes. You might be surprised how this subtle use of foreshadowing helps create a stronger story.

When writing a screenplay, always think of how earlier scenes can foreshadow later scenes. To do this, you can either write backwards so you know what early scenes need to foreshadow, or you can write forward and then go back and revise earlier scenes to foreshadow what happens later.

Either way, make sure you foreshadow major events as soon as possible because even though audiences often won’t notice, it creates a stronger story as a result.

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