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3 Tips for Creating Suspense in Writing

Creating Suspense in WritingWhen I read a book, in particular books with paranormal characters where the unknown should be the norm for the reader (and maybe the main character), I like to be kept guessing.  “Why did that happen?”  “Who is behind that?”  “What will happen now!?!”  The feeling of suspense is an important tool in any writer’s tool kit – regardless of the genre.

Here’s just a few ways you can kick up the suspense in your next writing project…

1.  Know what WILL happen… but also what could happen!  Write out the all the “could-be-happenings” in your notes & choose the most realistic ones to use in the book.  Be sure put in a few strongly worded clues which lead readers to think that the “could” might actually be what IS happening.  It’s important not to lie to readers (readers hate the bait and switch if there was no evidence to the facts) but laying out a few red herrings for the reader never hurt anyone at all when it came to building suspense.

2.  Show the reader why they should care about the stakes.  What will happen if the hero wins?  What happens if they lose?  It’s not just about throwing out the scary bad guy and saying “You could die!”  Instead, tell us about the hero’s sick kid Tiny Tim and how, if he loses his job, Timmy won’t get the medical care he needs to survive.  Then, put the hero’s job on the line… often.  Will he lose his job?  What will he do if he does?  TINY TIM NEEDS HIS DAD’S PAYCHECK!!!  Oh the suspense!

3.  Pacing, pacing, pacing.  When the stakes get high and Bob is about to lose his job and Tiny Tim may die for it… NOW is not the time to do a full chapter on the minutiae of his disease or the Christmas dinner his mom is making.  Stick with the story.  Stay with the action.  If you let the story wander, the reader might wander away from the story.

Got some other suggestions?  Leave them in the comments section below.  I’d love to hear from you!

10 comments on “3 Tips for Creating Suspense in Writing

  1. I’m with you on suspense. I love it. It’s like nitrous for stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d also add, be realistic. You don’t need to go out of your way – and your characters’ way – to put strange and unusual troubles in the story and on their way to their goal. We should try to keep troubles down to earth and within the readers’ experience.

    I think that if the problem the character has to solve is near to the reader’s experience, that’s likely to rise the tension even if it isn’t a very uncommon problem, because the reader will know what it means to be in such a situation.
    Life is very complecated, you know? I don’t think we really need to strain our imagination to create tension 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never really thought of The Christmas Carol in relationship with suspense, but you’re absolutely right. Making people care about the characters and what’s at stake for them definitely keeps them reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! Well, probably not the best example and yet, it was the first thing that popped to mind (probably due to the Christmas season. Thanks for taking a moment to leave a comment! 😀

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  4. The “Show the reader why they should care about the stakes” is so important – and this post is an important reminder for me! It’s easy for us to think as writers that the readers are going to understand everything that’s at stake, but including it in the story is what ups the suspense!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey I forget these things too, talking about the topics is as much a help to me as it is to others I’m sure. LOL. Thanks for taking a moment to come by and leave a comment. 😀

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