Creating suspense involves withholding information and asking key questions that arouse readers' curiosity. Character development plays an important role in generating suspense; for example, if a character's wish is not fulfilled at the end of the book, the reader will not feel that the story is complete. The suspense stems from your readers' anticipation, concern, and fear about what will happen next. You create suspense by making your readers fear the worst for a character they care deeply about.
For example, in The Sixth Sense, the dramatic question is: “Can Bruce Willis help Haley Joel Osment with her madness? The answer is, of course, (spoiler alert if you've somehow not seen this movie in the last thirteen years and you still want to be surprised) no, but Haley can help. Of course, as soon as we know the truth that Bruce is really dead, we see the clues, the omens, throughout the story. Editing Services Story Grid Certified Edition 100-day book The Write Practice Pro Fundamentals of publishing The best-selling training Enter your email for our free 10-step guide to becoming a writer. Enter your name and email to get our free book, 14 Prompts.
Writers want suspense in the manuscripts they write, agents want suspense in the reference letters they receive, and readers want suspense in the books they buy. In the writing industry, suspense almost merged with success. It doesn't matter what you write about, unless the reader goes through page after page until there are no more pages to review. While technically any literary suspense could be described as “narrative”, this refers to the tension that builds up throughout history.
In narrative suspense, you pose a question, problem, or mystery at the beginning of the book, you share more about it as the plot progresses, and finish it near the climax or the end. Having more than one narrative suspense arc keeps the reader interested and gives the story additional layers of depth. Although all suspense involves mystery in one way or another, mysterious suspense differs in that something is deliberately hidden from the reader. Romantic or comedic suspense can also occur when the reader doesn't know what's going to happen, although this tension is usually lighter than other forms of suspense.
To create a powerful suspense, make your hero face his greatest fear and risk losing what matters most to him. You can create suspense around anything that arouses readers' curiosity, whether it's a love triangle or a murderer on the loose. Until this happens, there may be little suspense or interest in the story, so clarify the hero's goal as soon as possible. To create suspense, make your readers worry about all the ways your hero's plans can go wrong (see Klems).
All these tips, as well as the newly acquired knowledge of their various incarnations, have officially made you a master of literary suspense. But what is suspense in literature and how can you weave that thrilling tension into your own stories? Fantastic chapters about characterization, suspense and conflict, a lot of things I had never thought about before.