Building Suspense In Writing
A dominant theme of horror movies is the concept of the unknown. Who’s behind you? Who’s on the other side? Horror movies are famous for making people question continuously, a great way of building suspense in writing.
In this writing exercise, you receive a call from someone who seems to know you. However, you have no idea who they are. What do they say and how do you respond?
Tips On Building Suspense In Writing
This writing exercise is not limited to suspense. Depending on your approach, you can easily turn this into a different genre such as mystery, horror, and even romance. Though, when creating this exercise, my initial thought is suspense. So, I’m going to suggest some tips on how to write suspense.
I’m no writing professional, but I do enjoy a good mystery or thriller during my spare time. The mystery genre and the suspense genre are considered cousin genres by WritersDigest. In that article, they also mention their nine tips to writing suspense fiction.
They make a good distinction between suspense and mystery. They use the example of an assassination crisis of the president. While a suspense would begin with dropping weapons, mysteries would begin with the knowledge or hint of the assassinated president. “In a nutshell, suspense creates drama before the crisis event while mystery starts its thrill ride after the crisis event.”
My own tips to add to writing suspense include putting yourself in your character’s shoes. In other words, if they aren’t worried, it’s likely the reader won’t be either. Also, use your characters to drive curiosity: when is something going to happen? Your readers can know what is going to happen but when is it going to happen? Or, something bad is going to happen but when?
Drop little hints along the way to fuel the suspense. A good suspense reveals bits at a time through dialogue or exposition. It should answer a question or many questions but leaves the reader hungry for more. In essence, it should build toward the climax of your story.
For example, in terms of this writing exercise, your character may start by feeling confused which escalates to fear after getting multiple calls. The character then realizes that the caller is inside his or her home or is suspicious when something is out of place such as the TV turned off when it was on a few moments ago.
Ready To Write?
These are only a few tips on how to write suspense. While your writing doesn’t have to reflect this theme, it’ll be a great way to practice building suspense in writing. Let’s go back to the writing exercise.
You receive a call from someone who seems to know you. However, you have no idea who they are. What do they say and how do you respond? What happens next?