Creating Suspense––Part IV

creating-suspenseEvery genre can utilize these suspense techniques to create tension and generate a page turner. We’re looking at different suspense threads. Last week, we looked at Macro and Scene suspense. This week, we’ll look at Hypersuspense and Paragraph Suspense. What drives suspense? It’s that question: What will happen next? Click to Tweet #amwriting #creatingsuspense


When the Lead and the reader don’t know what the forces are that oppose or hinder them––that’s hypersuspense.

The reader rides along the story with the Lead, not knowing what is going on. In Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, it is written in first person, and the narrator tells the story, withholding information, yet telling us the outcome. Manderley is no more, but we don’t know what happened.

Deep POV (close, limited, 3rd person), would well serve this type of suspense. We’re experiencing the story as it unfolds before us, even though written in past tense.

If you use multiple POVs, keep the lead in the dark about what’s happening. It builds suspense.

rebeccaParagraph Suspense

The smallest unit for creating suspense is the paragraph. Use it to ramp up tension and withhold information. That’s the key: withhold information. Draw it out.

Here’s an example:

Susie waited in the hallway. Surely, it would be any moment now. She looked around. Other students also waited for the posting of the results of the music solos. Mr. Baker, her band director, fidgeted. He was as excited as she was to learn her score. A “I” (one) score could help her get a college scholarship in music.

Not too bad. Let’s see if we can do better.

Susie wrung her hands. Surely, any moment now. Would she get a coveted “I” (one) on her flute solo? She’d flubbed in at least two places. Hopefully, not enough to ruin her chances. Mr. Baker, her band director, paced back and forth. He seemed as nervous and excited as she was. Oh, when would they post the results?

Hypersuspense hides the opposition. Paragraph suspense stretches out the tension. Click to Tweet #amwriting #creatingsuspense Build the suspense upon the previous paragraph, and you’ll end up with a page-turner.

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