Writing Suspense

Every Wednesday from now on, I’m going to list a few writing tips that I’ve picked up along the way. They come from my writing practice, my degree course and from reading way too many how to books.  I hope you find something here you can use.

original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kaptain Kobold

original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kaptain Kobold

Writing Suspense:

1) Characters are everything. Plot is secondary to characterisation. Make your conflict character (in suspense that’s the bad man) a polar opposite to the character you are asking the reader to identify with.

2) The bad guy needs to be not just bad but unpredictably bad. We need to be worried about what he’ll do next. He’s one nutcase that could be anywhere and do anything.

3) Even though the bad guy is unhinged, we need to see that his motives make perfect sense to him. We need to see his human side otherwise we risk writing a boring machine.

4) This might go without saying but don’t write stereotypes. Make your axe murderer afraid of birds and your heroine bad tempered or forgetful or impatient.

5) The more you make your heroine fret about what might happen, the more suspense you are creating. When the climax arrives, the reader has spent the whole book dreading the moment.

 

More next week.

original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Olemartin

original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Olemartin

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2 thoughts on “Writing Suspense

  1. This is the struggle with fiction, no? Writing a believable, likable heroine that readers can invest themselves in.

    • Thanks for your comment Tina. Personally, I like my heroines to be flawed. If they’re too perfect or too sweet, I feel like giving them a good slap. I think we can give our characters decent flaws (nasty temper or whatever) as long as they are deserving. Who doesn’t root for the foul-mouthed heroine who’s doing her darnedest to survive.

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