A Simple Suspense Writing Technique

Here is a simple suspense writing technique to keep your readers turning pages.

Let's say that your character, John, has just found a package on his doorstep. It is a small package, a bit smaller than a shoebox, with a hard bulge on one side. When John sees what's inside, his whole body goes cold because it seems that his greatest fear is coming true.

In the next sentence, you might tell the reader what's in the box, but then there wouldn't be much suspense. So, instead, you can make the reader wait.

If there's some background information the reader needs about John, this might be a good time to provide it.

Or, you could skip right to the next scene: John in his car, racing across the city to warn his sister that it's happening. He's received the Third Sign.

What's happening? What's the Third Sign? You might tell the reader now. Or, you might make the reader wait for this information too.

When you raise a question in the reader's mind, the reader will want the answer. By delaying the delivery of that answer, you can create suspense.

You WON'T waffle. You WON'T pad your story out with filler. Those are the wrong ways to delay information.

But you can leave certain things unsaid for a while. You can put off answering questions by cutting between scenes or by reorganizing your story (for example, by moving a descriptive passage to the place where you want to create a delay).

(So what IS in the box? What IS the Third Sign? I'm going to leave that up to your imagination -- if you want, you can write your own story about this scenario.

But in your own story, you'll want to provide actual answers by the end. If you raise a question in the reader's mind, you should eventually answer it.)

Your readers will turn pages eagerly to get to the answers, and they'll enjoy a feeling of satisfaction when they do.

And if you want to keep readers interested, don't forget the basics:

- Create a main character who feels real to readers so that readers will care what happens to him or her. You can learn how to build vivid characters in our online course Bringing Characters to Life.

- Come up with a strong story conflict where your character has something to gain or lose. Readers will keep reading to find out the result of the conflict. You can learn about developing a story conflict in our online course Story Structure.

Photo credit: Lubo Minar @ Unsplash

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