Writing Time, Part 74. Creating Suspense, 3 Ways

This is the third in a series of posts  on creating tension and one on sustaining suspense. I’m on panels talking about this at Creative Ink in Burnaby, BC, so it seems like a good moment to address ways to accomplish this. If we can create suspense, and sustain tension as we plot and draft, then we save a lot of time on revisions, as well. 

Consider these questions and possible answers:

  1. How much of creating suspense comes from a reader’s trust in the author to surprise them?  This may be accomplished by setting up a third option. Will this happen, or will that? Neither.
  2. How can anybody hope to create suspense by starting in the middle of the action? If we are not invested in the POV character, then all action gets us is readers wanting out of an ugly situation. An act of kindness, a small sacrifice, right off the bat is a screenwriting trick (see Blake Snyder’s brilliant Save the Cat) that sets us up to care, and we must care if there’s to be suspense. (A most gruesome kindness, and clever set-up for suspense, can be found at the start of the series House of Cards.)
  3. How can readers feel suspense if the POV character hogs all the emotional responses? If the stakes have just risen for the protagonist, we don’t write the protagonist’s reaction to it (unless that reaction is a surprise), so that readers may bring their own concern to the story, rather than experiencing it second-hand.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. JM Landels, Susan Pieters, and I appear March 31-APril 2 2017 at the Creative Ink Festival in Burnaby, BC. Great festival, I recommend it. Cheers Mel. To pre-order my new novel (and, thanks for the great reviews to those who have), click here:

This week from @yourwritingmuse: Your hard work pays off as you give your best to the world of readers. We’re most grateful. Your fan, your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

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