S for Suspense

As a thriller fan and now a writer myself, S has to be for Suspense.  “Suspense” is defined as a state of mental uncertainty or excitement. This is what thrillers are about. The best part of a good suspense novel is that it is really a page turner. You eagerly read on, wanting to know what happened next. Often you end up reading large chunks of the book, if not the book in its entirety, in one sitting.  When a reader says “I finished it at one go. I simple had to” this is music to the thriller writer’s ear.

I belive story telling is an art and practice helps us perfect this. Developing a plot is one aspect, writing it as a story is quite another. You might think of the best of plots with large measures of suspense thrown in. It won’t work unless your writing style captures the suspense, keeping the reader totally hooked. I am delighted to say that my debut novel “It Can’t be You” published in November 2010 has come in for a lot of favourable comment due to the suspense built into the story.  This has been very gratifying for me as the author.

My own experience, limited as it is, has taught me the following :

  • Use short sentences to build the pressure. Suspense has little place for long explanations.
  • See things from the view-point of the characters the good guys as well as the baddies. What would they do? How would they react? This may seem fairly obvious, but in creating suspense, the secret is to reveal only some part of what is going on in the person’s mind.
  • Not everything is black and white: This has become a favourite line of mine. True suspense flows when you cease to see the good guy as the paragon of all virtues and the bad guy as the last word in being evil. There are shades of “good” and “bad” in all of us. Use this creatively to build suspense.
  • The start is crucial. While this may be true of all kinds of books, it is particularly important for a suspense thriller. Hook the readers right from the beginning. Your start sets the tone for what is to follow making the reader interested to read more.

These were some points that I shared from my experience. Let’s now hear from the experts. How do you write suspense fiction successfully? Here are some tips from Writer’s Digest. The article by veteran suspense writer Simon Wood ends with this excellent bit of advice “Suspense writing is all about creating a pressure cooker with no relief valve. You have to keep turning up the heat using multiple burners. Employ these techniques and your reader will never come off the boil.”

I am working towards building suspense in my second novel  too.  Writing “Lucky For Some, Thirteen” has been for me a bigger challenge than writing my debut novel. Want to know how the story develops and what happens in the climax? You need to wait for some more time. Remember this is all about S for Suspense!

2 thoughts on “S for Suspense

  1. You’ve highlighted an important element of many genres. I write mysteries and suspense, or tension, is a requirement for holding the reader’s attention.

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