Tuesday, December 27, 2016

6 Must-haves in a Suspense Novel

Check your suspense novel for these six things. If you include them, you will put your readers on a rollercoaster ride of adventure and suspense they won’t quickly forget.

1.     Race against the clock
Insert a deadline- like in Back to the Future where they had to get everything set up before the clock chimed a certain time or in Harry Potter 7 when Voldemort gives those at Hogwarts one hour to give up Harry Potter.
The reader will constantly be aware of the ticking clock as he/she scrambles to do everything they must in order to survive or accomplish their goal- and the reader will have the sense that it is impossible.

2.     Try and Fail Cycles
Characters must fail to reach their goal or the story is over. Make the characters slowly learn and grow through mistakes and failures to achieve the goal. This makes for an interesting character and creates a story. No failures/mistakes=no story.

3.     Correct movement/pacing
With suspense, the story must be kept tight and moving. This means cutting like crazy and often starting your final version with chapter two-where the real story begins. Each sentence need to do two things: give plot and setting as well as character and theme. Ex: Having characters rush through the city while discussing something important.

4.     A Dilemma
Present characters with dilemmas in the story. Ex: When the Green Goblin is holding Mary Jane and holding the tram and he drops both for him to rescue. Make the reader gasp and hold their breath while they scream…what will he do? How will he survive?

5.     Have characters face their worst fears
This is pretty self-explanatory. The trick, however, is in making sure to introduce the fear early and allude to it throughout the story until the character has to face it. This builds tension. The inevitability knowing it’s coming, makes for a nail biter.

6.     The danger must be real
Show that the danger is real. No false alarms-real scares with real suspense and no misunderstandings that could be solved with a five minute discussion between two characters. Ex: When Dumbledore dies in Harry Potter. This makes the reader realize anyone could die.

What book have you read lately that you thought was full of suspense?

Cindy M. Hogan
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1 comment:

Canda said...

These are some great tips. I think they could work in any genre. Thanks!