Creating Suspense––Part IX

creating-suspense-2Suspense is in itself, now a genre, but suspense techniques can be used in whatever genre you write in. Suspense helps to create page turners, and as an author, that’s the goal.

There’s a lot to creating suspense, and we’ve just scratched the surface here, but hopefully you have enough techniques to help you write and revise your manuscript to include these different types of suspense. Remember that a mystery is a whodunit, suspense is “What will happen next?” Using that as your guide, you can write amazingly taut scenes, moving the story along, and create an outstanding book that people will want to read.

Tension, when drawn out, delays the payoff and creates the kind of pressure that will keep your reader turning pages. Click to Tweet #amwriting #creatingsuspense

Techniques to Create More Tension

  1. Find a few places in your story where the stimulus moves too quickly to a character’s response, possibly from another character, something which happened, or from dialogue.
  2. Come up with at least four additional lines of text between the provocation and the reaction. Repeat throughout as you continue to self-edit your text to add suspense and tension.
  3. Examine and cut as needed, but keep something from the new material.

Other ways to Stretch Tension

  1. Emotional Tension –– stretch the character’s internal tension within their feelings, thoughts, and emotions.
  2. Slow the Fear/Terror –– even though it may only last an instant in real time, slow it down so that the reader feels and experiences every bit of the suspense along with the character.


  1. Find a moment of terror in your book. If it’s a character-driven novel, you can find an inner terror that is meaningful to the Lead. Terror of being exposed, of losing a love, of being ostracized, etc.
  2. Write a page-long paragraph, stretching this tension out.
  3. Now write a page of short sentences, one after the other, doing the same thing.

cary-grant-nnwWe’ve spent a considerable amount of time learning how to create suspense in your stories, no matter what the genre. Even so, we’ve only scratched the surface. It is my hope that you have enjoyed these posts and learn from them. I certainly have. I found that I already had a basic knowledge of how to move scenes along to build momentum and create suspense. I got those from writing my Zorro stories on Fan Fiction.

However, to become published authors, we need to go beyond book learning, and instinct, and learn by doing. Practicing the art of suspense building, adding cliffhangers, (I had no idea there were so many types), requires writing and revising, and repeating.

My main source for this material was James Scott Bell’s Conflict & Suspense. The goal for your story is that you want your reader to not be able to put your book down once they’ve picked it up. Click to Tweet #amwriting #creatingsuspense

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