Today’s reader is savvy and knowledgeable. I believe this is the reason for the rise in the suspense genre. Complex characters and shocking plots grab the reader tight, unwilling to let go until the very end. Conflict advances and drives the plot into an unpredictable story that leaves us exhausted – yet satisfied.
Suspense is the aphrodisiac that keeps readers turning those pages. So how do you create a gripping suspenseful story that leaves everyone talking? By creating characters the reader cares about while giving conflict, tension, pacing and clever foreshadowing.
Create situations where your reader is curious about what’s coming next. This curiosity builds suspense and a good writer will make it flow naturally. There are many ways to create suspense:
· By withholding information from the reader
· By withholding information from the main characters
· By telling the story from the villain’s POV – withholding from main characters
· By the main character knowing who the killer is – but he/she has to prove it
· Maybe there’s more than one killer
· The options are endless as are plots.
Most writers know who the killer is . . . oh, we may be surprised now and then, but most likely we have a good idea who we believe did the dead. You could let the reader know right away – but if you’re like me – I love guessing.
Keeping the killer a mystery to the main characters works so well, it’s the most common plot. Like I just said, we love guessing. I want to dissect all the evidence, evaluate the characters, apply common sense, and finally draw my own conclusion and hope I guessed who dun it!
Writing the suspense can be tricky . . . you need to foreshadow along the way just enough so the reader realizes they could have figured it out – but failed to take that vital bit of information seriously.
So what should you avoid when writing suspense? I think a prolog is a killer. I hate them to be honest. Whatever you need your reader to learn about a character should be fed in small doses. Make sure it’s important and ameliorates the plot so the reader will understand the character’s motive and why he reacts/behaves in certain conditions or anxious situations.
Intensity is the key to gripping your reader and not letting go. It speeds up the momentum and the writer must increase the awareness with each new chapter until it climaxes at the end. Never let this suspenseful action slow . . . or your reader will lose interest.
Suspenseful stories also revolve around relationships, usually love interests, but that can’t realistically interrupt the flow of the intensity. Don’t have your hero and heroine chasing down a possible killer in an old mine shaft, then have them suddenly rolling on the ground in a passionate interlude, then get back to the chase. I know – we’ve read it before and doesn’t it just annoy the crap out of you? It does me.
Keep in mind if your characters are in danger and dealing with a killer – then we have to be realistic. Think it through and ask yourself, “Would a couple really stop in the middle of a chase, have a quickie, then resume the chase?” This might be their only chance to catch the killer. Your reader would probably scream, “What are you doing? You’ve almost caught him! Put your pants back on and be real.” You must create believable scenes so your readers don’t question what’s happening.
In writing suspense, emotion is what gets your reader invested in the story. In knowing the characters, the reader will either pull for them or become anxious for them to get their due castigations.
Keep the emotion high so the reader understands the importance of the situation. It’s the emotion that motivates us, what dictates how we react, and controls our decisions. And, I’ll say it again, “Suspense is the aphrodisiac that keeps readers turning those pages.”