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A happy family picnic? Maybe not. One of my Hollywood friends recently told me of a simple, much-used movie trick to create a mood of suspense in an interior shot: Leave a cupboard door open. This visual cue suggests that things are unsettled, not composed, in need of attention. On the page, little odd things that are not quite in order can create a subtle sense of tension in any scene. Think dangling apron strings, a guttering candle, a loose window latch, a jammed copy machine.
The guard steps away for an illicit smoke, and we just know the homicidal maniac will escape. You could write it that way, but how much better would it be to bring the guard back a few minutes later to find all is well? As in the related yet subtly different example of crying wolf, obey the rule of three. On the third go—gone! Better still, because readers might be ready for the fake-out, have the payoff up the ante: The guard returns to find not only the prisoner gone, but the cell full of the bloody bodies of the warden and his family. The terrible mistake is one of the great heart-clutching moments in literature.
You must wait. Suspense is inherent in such a situation: What if you sneeze?
What if a dog comes along and detects the candy bar in your pocket? Hiding can, like many of the examples in this article, be used figuratively. A character can hide behind a stolen identity, a lie or even the fog of war. Learn better by seeing examples?
Writer's Digest Magazine
A change of heart or—more commonly—fear of jail has caused many a criminal to drop a dime. It gets most exciting when they hit the streets wearing a recording device, under orders to gather incriminating evidence. But there is still excellent tension inherent in an informant trying, with all her sweaty-palmed guile, to get the goods on hoods.
I love to use disguise and impersonation in my novels because: 1 Suspense begins to build the moment you show a character preparing for the ruse; and 2 It can be funny to construct a fish-out-of-water scenario where, for instance, a private detective brazenly impersonates a homeless drunk, or a reporter tries to pass as a plainclothes nun. We expect a professional undercover agent to do pretty well at escaping detection. The unknown is a time-honored suspense component, especially useful for horror, sci-fi or paranormal.
Stephen King, for one, has built a colossal career by using the unknown, primarily manifested by the paranormal, typified by his gripping novel The Shining.
At last Jane has escaped the miserable Lowood charity school, to work as a governess in a mansion with a most sexy master. And that drives the suspense all the way to the end. A beautiful lake can represent the water of life, or it can symbolize something more unsettling if, for instance, your story begins in autumn, the first frosts skimming the lake with morning mists, eventually to transform the water into something cold, hard and dangerous. From the start we know a murder occurred many years ago, and we know the murderer will be exposed, because the narrator is describing a criminal trial.
How was the crime committed, how was it hidden, how was it exposed? Any good gangster knows that you do people favors before asking any from them. Because when people are in your debt, you can more easily persuade them to do something for you. This technique can work in any scenario—a political boss and his constituents or underlings , a nasty sibling rivalry, a group of friends on holiday at a health spa. Isolation of a select character or group of characters intensifies the most ordinary circumstances into suspenseful ones.
Plays can be great venues for the isolation breed of suspense—by default we have characters in close proximity to one another onstage, and we know rats in a cage will fight eventually. How else might you create isolation—which, by the way, can be temporary? How about a stuck elevator, a sudden storm, even a flat tire? When you use an accident in an overt attempt to try to write yourself out of a jam, your readers will squawk.
25 Best Suspense Books from 2018 to Add to Your TBR
In their reviews on Amazon. On Goodreads. The fact remains, however, that accidents do happen. And a sudden, unexpected disaster instantly ramps up tension. Plausibility is the key. Click here to buy it now. In the case of this article, after completely losing myself in my subject of suspense, I broke for a nice little lunch at a nearby bistro. A fruit fly got too enticed by my glass of Rioja and drowned therein. This is exactly the frame of mind you as an author should cultivate, by living and breathing your writing.
Ever wanted to take a writing course with professional instructors without having to leave the comfort of your home? Check out the upcoming course schedule right now and find a class that fits you. Story Needs Every Element. Suspense arises naturally from good writing - it's not a spice to be added separately. Leigh Michaels.
Good Writing Good Writing Spice. For me, suspense is always harder and better than going for the quick, outright scare. Gillian Flynn. Me Better Always Going. As for suspense, I like to write books that draw you into the hero's plight from the opening pages, where people put their lives on the line for something - a belief, a family member, the truth. Andrew Gross. Family Hero Truth You. One of the things I learned as a young semiotics nerd was that if you have plot moving forward, no matter how banal the facts of it, simply the fact that the plot is rolling forward makes you wonder what's going to happen next, which creates suspense.
So you can control peoples' attention simply by having things move forward in a story. Ira Glass. You Moving Forward Control Moving. The courage to imagine the otherwise is our greatest resource, adding color and suspense to all our life. Daniel J. Life Courage Imagination Color. I like a good suspense thriller when it's smart and well done like 'Armed Response' is.
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Seth Rollins. Good Smart Well Done Done. I often will write a scene from three different points of view to find out which has the most tension and which way I'm able to conceal the information I'm trying to conceal. And that is, at the end of the day, what writing suspense is all about. Dan Brown. Top 10 Suspense Quotes. View the list. Suspense is worse than disappointment. Robert Burns.
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Disappointment Worse Than. I've mis-signed many a book Rollins or Clemens. My readers quickly become aware. Booksellers will often promote me under both names, and I do plug both at signings. Generally, the fantasy reader has no problem going into the suspense genre. It's harder for the typical suspense reader to go the other direction.
Me Book Problem Direction. If you want to laugh, see a comedy. If you want to cry, see a drama, and if you want suspense, see a thriller. Charlie Murphy. You Laugh Cry Comedy.
A mystery is a whodunit. You know what happened, but not how or who's behind it. A thriller, or a suspense, is a howdunit. You know what happened, and you usually know who did it, but you keep reading because you want to know how they pulled it off. You Reading Know Mystery. To answer that I have to describe what I think is my responsibility as a thriller writer: To give my readers the most exciting roller coaster ride of a suspense story I can possibly think of. Jeffery Deaver.
Ride Responsibility Think I Can. I mean suspense, twists are almost impossible these days. Danny Boyle. Impossible Mean Days Twists. Suspense is a real tough beast in terms of the filmmaking. David Slade. Tough Real Beast Filmmaking. For me, the perfect romantic suspense hero has got to be tough on the outside but tender at his core. A take-charge kind of guy who has his own inner strength and a strong sense of right and wrong - which might not dovetail with the conventional wisdom. I mean, he might bend the law if he thinks the ends justify the means. Ruth Glick. Strength Wisdom Hero Me.
Though they don't always have to be set in fog, weather is incredibly important in ghost stories.