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Add Suspense to Your Story
Some genres are better known for suspense better than others, but just about every story has some type of suspense present.
A murderer may not be on the loose, but an embezzler could be. Would he kill to keep his crime a secret?
One of your characters has stayed up studying night after night for an upcoming test. Will he pass it?
Or will the woman who just moved into town manage to find a suitable house to rent? She is taking care of her ailing parents and needs a residence where they will be comfortable. Her mom owns a dog that is her very best friend. Not one place she has looked into renting will allow animals.
No matter what genre your tale falls in – historical fiction, romance, mystery, westerns, science fiction, fantasy or any of the others – suspense can and needs to be introduced into the story. How can you do this?
1) Allow your character to face her worst nightmare. Does she have a deathly fear of spiders? Let her fall into a hole in the ground. There is an easy way out of it, but in order to escape she must go through about a dozen spider webs, each one with a really big spider on it. Your character’s worst nightmare could be flying or riding in a car. His or her worst nightmare could be something unusual, say a fear of bald people or a fear of the sunshine. Or the character could have a deathly fear of dogs and cats. Whatever the fear, place him or her in a situation where this fear must be confronted and overcome for the situation to be resolved.
2) Give your character a false sense of safety. Houses all around have been robbed. Samantha hears a noise one night and is convinced that the notorious robber has finally broken into her house. She grabs the gun and tiptoes downstairs, only to find that the thunderstorm raging outside has blown a huge branch off a tree and through the living room window. A huge mess, but no robber. Relieved, she goes back to bed not realizing that the robber is watching her through the huge hole left in the window by the tree branch.
3) Allow suspicion to fall upon at least two or three people. Don’t make it easy for your reader to figure out who is the guilty one. Show that each person has a motive and had the opportunity to commit the crime. Throw red herrings and clues around. Make it a challenge for the reader to figure out who committed the crime.
4) Put the weather to use. Think about the horror movies you have seen. When something bad is about to happen, a storm is brewing. Thunderclouds appear in a darkening sky and lightning flashes. The wind picks up and screeches. When the trouble is over, the sun shines and a rainbow appears.
5) You’re stuck, you’ve run out of ideas and the story has become boring. What do you do? Throw in a dead body. An armed man breaks onto the scene. A freak thunderstorm or tornado appears out of nowhere. The ground opens up and swallows someone.
6) Make the setting creepy. Place the house by a cemetery. Or have a beautiful house surrounded by woods with a lake in front of it. All is not as tranquil as it appears to be at first glance. The lake has a monster lurking beneath its calm and serene water.
7) Keep your sentences short. This will allow the reader to read quickly while his anxious heart is pounding in fear for your character’s situation. If your sentences are long and involved, this will slow your reader down and allow him to possibly become bored with the story.
You are more than welcome to take any of the situations hinted at above, write them, and post them in the forum.
Content copyright © 2013 by Lisa Binion. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Lisa Binion. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Lisa Binion for details.
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