Create Suspense: Always Leave The Reader…Wanting More

Clarice-Starling-and-Jack-CrawfordNo matter what genre you choose to write in, it would be wise to leave the reader wanting more. Don’t believe me, thumb through the first few pages of the latest thriller, mystery, or romance novel in your collection and answer one question: Does the writer leave you wanting more? If so, then maybe they have started to reward you for making the choice to purchase their stories. But if not, then something in their skills may be sorely lacking….

Hopefully not. Anyway, creating suspense is a useful technique no matter your genre. Something according to Donald Maass (in his novel, Fire in Fiction) must always be kept taut. According to Maass, “Micro-tension is the secret behind page-turning fiction,” pg 97. Another thing he hints at, is the fault of beginning writers, to create tension at the start of a chapter, only to release it a few pages down. A let down to any reader, who is looking for something to span out over time. Something that builds slowly and then releases. One way to do this according to Maass, is to not start the next chapter with the scene or episode that the reader is most likely waiting for.

Think of the movie, Psycho, with its discordant music, and the woman bathing as the killer pulls a knife. Or The Silence of the Lambs with Clarice Starling, training at the Academy only to be called in on a case and then told to go see Dr. Lector. Wait. Were you expecting Buffalo Bill? Watch it again, see if any of the scenes go where you expected them to, and then postulate why or why not. No matter what you are writing, there are always tips and tricks…use the ones that work for you…and dump the others.

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Because readers, like those cinema patrons want to be on the edge of their seats…waiting for that shock. They want to know what will happen next…and now and then it is good to keep them waiting…reading.

Give them clues if you have to, but leave them to mull it over for themselves. Eventually they will come around, and they will love you for it…I know I do. Anyway, remember a scene is written one word at a time, so take out anything that might be skipped…and include everything that is pertinent.

Once again, thanks for reading, and have a great week! Sorry for the delay in post, but I spent the last week recuperating from a very bad cold. Hope you’re all well though and wishing you all the best!