I just finished a great huge doorstop of a book–a thriller, entertaining and complex (though, for my money, about 300 pages longer than it ought to have been for any reason at all) — by a bestselling writer. I had (mostly) a good time reading it, except for the foreshadowing. Every chapter seems to end with a “It would be the last malted she ever drank,” or “three hours later everyone in the hospital would be dead” sort of sentence. I think it’s intended to heighten the urgency and anxiety surrounding the events of the book, but you do it too often and it does just the opposite. It’s a tic, and in a 1300-page book with as many chapters and sub-chapters as this one, it gets old.
Every writer develops habits, phrases, patterns. Many of them are harmless. Many of them won’t be observed by the reader. But all of us do it. And sometimes we pick up someone else’s tic and make it our own. For example, I read the entire of Jane Aiken Hodge’s oeuvre when I was a teenager. Hodge was a terrific writer of historical romance, meticulously researched and intelligent, with female characters who had agency and human emotions. Win! Hodge also has a tic that worked its way into my own writing. Take a sentence like “It was foolish to think of what had gone before,” and she’d omit “It was.” The final sentence would be “Foolish to think of what had gone before.” Written from her character’s POV, lopping off “it was” gives the sentence immediacy and emotional punch.
When I was going through the galleys for my new book I found a number of sentences I’d built exactly that way; some of them I took out, some of them I kept. Because foreshadowing, and cliffhangers, and lopping off a word or two to heighten tension, are all very useful tools in a writers’ box o’ tricks. Like any tool, you use it when appropriate, and no more. Even if you’re Stephen King.