Suspense..Dun Dun Dun…

How to inject suspense into your novel

There are certain genres types that we associate with being more suspenseful than others: crime, horror and romantic suspense, but  every book,  whether it’s a Historical Romance or a Paranormal Fantasy, will have a degree  of suspense laced within the pages!

All stories need to have this element, to ensure the  reader turns the pages.

Your novel will always have conflict that’s a given, otherwise there’s  no story.  It would be the dullest story ever if things went  smoothly with no conflict. And everyone lived happily ever after ….whatever.

Below are  seven ways to  inject suspense into your novel:

1. Your characters will have their own worst nightmare!

Map them out beforehand.  Find out about your characters beforehand, likes and dislikes, their greatest fears. If you map out what causes their hearts to thump loudly, and the hairs on the back of their necks to stand on end, your onto a winner? Once you discover what they are afraid of, then let have both barrels. .Introduce them to their worst nightmare and watch how they react!

2. Lull them into a false sense of security then boom!

The best time to throw your character a curve ball is when they are frightened, its perfect to chuck in a red herring. For example, if your hero hears a noise outside, let the plot exploit this and prey on his fears .  Then it can be something innocuous, like the wind blowing against the window shutters. After he has settled and breathing a sigh of relief, shake his nerves by having someone burst through the door!

3. Make the reader guess who’s the Villain!    

Please for the sake of the plot throw the spotlight on more than one person.  If the villain stands out like a sore thumb, you ‘ll have just shot yourself in the foot. If the suspicion falls on more characters, it is better for the plot line. The reader is guessing until the end and if your skillful, will not see the ending coming. This doesn’t mean that you can’t leave a trail of breadcrumbs and clues for the reader to piece together.

4. Pace is Ace!  

Using pace effectively is important when creating suspense. When writing suspense laden scenes a series of  short, snappy sentences  enables the reader to race ahead so they feel their heart is beating in time with the fearful protagonist. Using Longer sentences will slow things down and help build the tension.

5. Whether the weather is right?

Creating an atmosphere using weather is a good way to add to the suspense in a scene. This can be the atypical storm-clouds brewing overhead kind of like a prophetic fallacy. A bolt of lightning hitting the night sky, power lines down, a stranger at the door, etc. Run the last horror film through your mind, when didn’t the director use the weather?

6. If in doubt throw in a body!

When the middle part of your novel hits a  saggy bit, and you find there’s nowhere to go, mix things up. Now I’m not saying kill off a secondary character  although that would work really well. But inject a little oomph in the plot by introducing something new.

7. Setting the scene!

Settings are very important tools to create suspense.  The dusty cobweb covered staircase leading up to the loft.  The broken elevator that stops between floors, where the protagonist catches a glimpse of a killers feet. Choosing the right sort of setting can make or break a novel. Sometimes if you place the object or person the protagonist fears in an innocuous setting, can make the story all the more horrifying.

Conflict and suspense go hand in hand. Above all  be cruel to your characters to be kind to your readers. Pile on the misery and watch them run.

Neil Sehmbhy is a an author who lives in a town that likes to think of itself as a city. Author of the forthcoming Corporation, Jinx and Sunder novels, you can follow him on Twitter @NeilSehmbhy


2 responses to “Suspense..Dun Dun Dun…


  2. Pingback: How To Use Description when writing |·

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