Creating Suspense––Part II

cary-grant-nnwI’m not a suspense writer, but I love to read it. Last week we talked about suspense asking the question “What happens next?” What about mysteries? Are there differences between mystery and suspense? Can a story have both? Click to Tweet #amwriting #creatingsuspense

When we write our stories, we have a goal in mind. We have a strategy of how we’ll write it. Even pantsers have a sort of strategy. They have a basic idea in their head, and they run with it to see where it will go. Plotters get their 3 x 5 cards out, or their dry erase board, and they plot out their whole story. But both have some sort of strategy.

Mystery and suspense are both strategic tools to writing gripping fiction. If we know the differences between them, we can use those in order to build the strategy of our story. Let’s look at their differences.

Mystery = Who did it?
Suspense = Will it happen again?

mystery-v-suspenseMystery = What clue do we have now? What’s the next one?
Suspense = Will we get out of this?

Mystery = Let’s figure it out.
Suspense = Let’s keep safe.

Mystery = puzzle
Suspense = nightmare

Mysteries ask: What will the lead character find next?
Suspense asks: What will happen next to the lead character?

There can be crossover and intertwine of both elements in a story. Examples: The DaVinci Code and The Big Sleep. I’m sure you can think of many other examples.

One of the most recent ones I read is Nowhere to Turn, by Lynette Eason. It’s classified suspense, but there was also an element of mystery in there, as the lead characters tried to discover who was behind it all. I’d say a lot of our great suspense books these days, have that component of the unknown, something for the characters to discover. Whodunit?

Suspense and mystery can be intertwined for a deeply satisfying story. Click to Tweet #amwriting #creatingsuspense

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