Do you remember how you felt while reading The Da Vince Code or Gone Girl? The sweaty palms, the pleasant shiver, the jaw-clenching tension? Remember how those well-drawn elements of suspense held you in thrall, feathering along your skin, raising goosebumps?
Suspense fiction comes in a variety of flavors, all delicious, and if you have a yen for building suspense in your writing and learning how to create the same kind of reading experience for your own audience, this is the place for you.
For a special series of articles, I’ll be your guide as we dig deep into the elements of suspense that grab readers and don’t let go. These elements apply, regardless of the publishing route you choose for getting your stories out to your suspense readers.
Here, we will learn how you can craft suspense in your own books, so read on—and stay tuned!
As writers, we want to capture our readers’ attention, rivet them to the page, and leave them clamoring for more. We want to create something that moves people, deepens their understanding, and keeps them thinking about our story long after they’ve devoured the last word.
You may have noticed how I used sets of three in my opening paragraph, and if you didn’t consciously register it, your subconscious mind certainly did. Using the Rule of Three in your writing is one way to meet reader expectations and engage reader interest.
Atmosphere matters. People will pay a premium to eat at a restaurant with a certain ambience or buy a house in a setting that supports a particular feeling. In like manner, your reader won’t remember every word you wrote, but if you infuse the story with atmosphere, they will remember the way it made them feel. And readers read in order to feel something.
When you put your writing out there for others to read, what do you hope will happen? If you’re like most writers, you want readers to get pulled into your story and keep turning pages to the end. You want your story to be un-put-downable.
It’s no secret that the time-tested method of using cliffhangers at the end of your chapters or scenes is a sure-fire way to make that happen. But what a lot of writers don’t realize is that the cliffhanger ending is only half the equation.
The cliffhanger is the hook that makes the reader turn the page, but if you don’t have a solid line supporting them across the gap and a sinker that pulls them deep into the next scene or chapter, your fish is likely to wriggle off and swim away.
Have you ever wondered how the elements of story impact your book’s genre? Do some elements of story have greater importance in a book because of the book’s genre?
I can think of several times when I’ve gone to a restaurant and taking the time to slowly chew my food, so I can experience how each of my senses is impacted by the food: from taste to smell to sight.
The level of importance the elements of story have on genre isn’t so different. We all have certain tastes—factors that appeal to us in different ways on our taste buds—and it’s the same with our reading preferences. I came to understand this in a profound way when I worked for our local library system, which I’d like to share with you today.
Readers crave certain “flavors” and genre helps them define what they like and discover more of it.
How the five elements of story vary in level of importance because of the genre may impact your perspective—and in a good way, for writers trying to satisfy their target readers!