REBLOG: A Crash Course In Suspense

Victor has some good points here about building suspense. Particularly in fantasy and action, suspense is vital to keeping the reader engaged. Readers do not want to given everything easily, suspense is emotion and emotion is why people read.

As Victor suggests, foreshadowing is a good tool for building suspense. Letting the reader know something is coming. But you don’t want to reveal too much. There’s a delicate balance between making it visible enough for the reader, but not letting on about the meaning to early.

I would add that slowing your prose is a good method for building tension. Once you have a danger present, you can add a few extra lines to stretch out the resolution. It leaves the reader wondering what will happen, leaves them begging for the result. I often do this by focusing on the character’s breathing or feeling, getting a bit stuck in the drama and fear, before letting the situation resolve. It doesn’t take much, just two or three sentences, but the impact can be significant.

Victor Poole

On building emotionally fulfilling suspense.

Suspense is mostly about seeing something coming before the character is aware of it, and getting excited on behalf of the character.

There are innumerable ways to show the reader ominous happenings are on their way.

Effective Suspense (Good Writing):

The clouds about LuEllen swept apart in strange patterns, as if beaten by conflicting surges of wind. A roar that rumbled like thunder made the ground under her horse tremble. LuEllen’s chestnut mare threw her head up; her forefeet lifted off the ground.

LuEllen leaned into her mare’s neck, and made soothing chucks with her lips; she stroked the shining red neck. Her mare’s eyes were rolling, showing white, and the mare’s hooves rose and fell with anxious thumps into the grass.

A strange, other-worldly rumble, like the keening song of a whale, echoed through the clouds above the shadowed valley; LuEllen looked up, and…

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