Writing Exercise: Building Suspense In Writing

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?

Writing Exercise: Hero Or Villain

Writing Exercise: Hero Or Villain?

Imagine this: you get an exclusive offer to be part of the main cast of the most anticipated film of the year. They give you two options: to play as the hero or the villain. In this writing exercise, we would like to know which would you decide to play?

The Hero

writing exercise hero villain

A hero (male) or heroine (female) is the protagonist (the main character) of the movie. They combat hardships through strength, bravery, and ingenuity (intelligence). Heroes or heroines perform good deeds for honour and for the common good rather gain fame and fortune. He or she may have some special quality or talent that distinguishes them from the rest of the characters. This can also be an attribute.

There has been debate over the differences between a hero and heroine. Male heroes are often portrayed as physically capable, witty, faithful, determined, chivalrous, and many more fluffy adjectives. Heroines, on the other hand, are argued to shed their feminine traits for them to possess heroic characteristics. Nina wrote an interesting article detailing her thoughts on women heroes and their role in literature, film, and pop culture.

Some common examples of fictional heroes are the ones from superhero movies such as Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Iron Man, and so on. However, Harry from Harry Potter and Thomas from The Maze Runner also classify as a hero. Great fictional heroine examples include Hermione Granger from Harry Potter and Diana Prince from Wonder Woman.

The Villain

writing exercise hero villain

The villain (male) or villainess (female) is often the antagonist (the opposing character) of the movie. They cause conflict and are an obstacle or provide obstacles so the protagonist has difficulty in achieving his or her goal. In cartoons and fiction, villains are often portrayed as scheming. Cackling with glee and rubbing their hands in glee as they plot for world domination or world takeover is an iconic scene.

However, Ben Bova recommends that authors do not include villains in their work. He states, “In the real world there are no villains. No one actually sets out to do evil… Fiction mirrors life. Or, more accurately, fiction serves as a lens to focus on what they know in life and bring its realities into sharper, clearer understanding for us. There are no villains cackling and rubbing their hands in glee as they contemplate their evil deeds. There are only people with problems, struggling to solve them.”

Additionally, there are debates that heroes and villains are driven by different motivations.

Many writers also seek to create sympathetic villains: a villain who has good intentions but are deterred to an antagonistic path along the way. This is an attempt to add realism and a human connection.

A quote by Joseph Brodsky sums up villains and arguably sympathetic villains quite well. “Life–the way it really is–is a battle not between Bad and Good, but between Bad and Worse.”

Which Would You Choose?

While the hero character still dominates most films, literature, and shows, the line between heroes and villains have begun to blur. A quote by Joseph Brodsky sums this up quite well.

“Life–the way it really is–is a battle not between Bad and Good, but between Bad and Worse.”

For this writing exercise, we like to know which character you would like to play? Personally, I wouldn’t like to play either. Three cheers for sidekicks.

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