Creating Suspense––Part VII

creating-suspense-2Cliffhangers became popular in the silent film era and remain popular today. Literary serials of the 1800s were probably the genesis of cliffhangers. Writers like Charles Dickens had to keep readers wanting more so they’d buy the next issue of the magazine or newspaper the story was published in. Cliffhangers keep readers and moviegoers in suspense. Click to Tweet #amwriting #creatingsuspense

Dialogue Cliffhangers

In my novel, “Meghan’s Choice,” Meghan has been asked to sit with a beaten up dance hall girl. There’s a knock at the door. She expects it to be one person, it ends up being someone totally unexpected.

Her stomach growled. How and where would she get her meals today? She’d grabbed her reticule, but Scott had told her to stay put until he came. A soft knock rapped on the door. Maybe that was him now.

“It—it’s you!”

I end the scene and chapter there.

rebeccaEmotional Cliffhangers

When you end a scene with your POV character in a highly emotional state, that can be a cliffhanger. Back to Meghan––later, she goes to fill a water pitcher.

She found the water pump nearby, filled her pitcher and carefully went back upstairs. Reaching the small landing at the top, she opened the door and stepped into the hallway. The arrival of the noon train served as an alarm clock for the dance hall girls.

She opened the door to re-enter Rosie’s room, and gasped. And nearly dropped the full pitcher.

A powerful emotional response is a great way to end a scene or a chapter.

In Medias Res Cliffhangers

“In the middle of things” is what in medias res literally means in Latin. The principal here is to cut a paragraph off in the middle. Use it to end a scene or a chapter. It may not always work, but see what you think when you try it.

Here’s an example:

David picked up the necklace he’d given her, looking like he was about to throw it in her face.

“Put that down.” Maggie stared at the necklace. Why couldn’t he come and throw his arms around her?

Instead, he dropped the necklace and walked to the door. It hit the floor and shattered, along with her heart.

“I’m leaving now. Don’t try to contact me.” He slammed the door behind him.

Would the following be more impactful?

David picked up the necklace he’d given her, looking like he was about to throw it in her face.

“Put that down.” Maggie stared at the necklace. Why couldn’t he come and throw his arms around her?

Instead, he dropped the necklace and walked to the door. It hit the floor and shattered, along with her heart.

Sometimes, leaving a scene in the middle of things helps with forward momentum.

Next time, we’ll look at stretching the tension. Suspense creates page turners. Click to Tweet #amwriting #creatingsuspense

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One thought on “Creating Suspense––Part VII

  1. Pingback: Writing Scintillating Scenes––Part VIII | Donna L.H. Smith

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