The Trail of Breadcrumbs
The technical/literary term for this technique is foreshadowing, literally meaning to cast a shadow of something yet to come. You want to make the shadow indistinct, so that the reader won't know for sure what it is, but…they can and will guess. And whenever you can get your reader making inferences and predictions, you will draw them in. Think about it this way: your reader wants to be clever, wants to figure things out, and wants the payoff to a) discover they were right or b) have the author fool them in a really surprising (OH, I didn't see that coming) kind of way. You, the author, drop a trail of breadcrumbs for the reader to follow.
There are many ways to pull off this technique. You can have a detail, a character's softly spoken words, a prologue, etc. stand out like a sore thumb from the story at large. The Movie War of the Worlds (Tom Cruise version) begins with this very odd microscopic view of water droplets (voiced over by Morgan Freeman, I believe). And at the beginning of the movie, you find yourself wondering, "what was that all about?" Then, at the end, you discover that water (or was it germs in the water) kills the alien invaders.
Another way is much more subtle…a hint dropped early in the story that comes to fruition. I loved Gandalf in the Mines of Moria telling Frodo, "For good or ill, Gollum may still have a part to play in this tale." Boy did he.
I am a big fan of this technique and attempted to use it heavily in The Door Within books. In Book 1, the reader discovers that Falon (and all mortiwraiths) must remain underground because exposure to sun or moon will kill all of her race. But…if something could cloak the sun and moon, then lookout! And in book 3 we see Falon unleashed. The who first chapter of The Door Within is massive foreshadowing for the climax of the series.
Because you use this strategy a little at a time, spread out over the course of your story, it's a little more difficult to pull off in a short text example.
"We're all friends here," said Kellen the Storm Leader. "Most of us have fought and bled together. I do not believe the traitor is among us."
Nods were exchanged throughout the circle of warriors assembled in Gale Keep. But so too were uncertain glances. Suspicion still lingered and, like a slow acting poison, it threatened to weaken the group. If not for Kellen's unassailable will, they would have foundered long ago.
As they funneled out of the keep, every knight met Kellen's gaze and returned his grim smile. But Vesyr kept his interaction with the Storm Leader short, hoping Kellen would not notice the slight twitch that had developed under Vesyr's right eye.
YOUR TURN: Create a story excerpt where you drop a trail of breadcrumbs for readers to follow. Two entries per person. The author with the best use of Suspense Technique #5 will receive a signed copy of either Isle of Swords OR The Door Within, The Author's Cut!