Monday, March 23, 2009

Writing Suspense--Workshop 1

Writing suspense is all about creating an expectancy that "something" is about to happen.

Do you remember the first time you started falling in love? Perhaps you saw that special someone and instantly felt the chemistry between you. Remember that little increase in your heart rate? The anticipation of getting to know the person you couldn't take your eyes off of? You might have been afraid of rejection, yet filled with hope and anticipation. You may have started daydreaming of having that person put their arms around you, of having your lips meet in that first passionate kiss.

This is suspense. It's the anticipation of something to come. If you want to write a good suspense, a page-turner that your reader won't be able to put down, you have to create the same feelings of anticipation as falling in love.

The first step is to drop a hint that something is going to happen.

You see that special someone and your eyes meet. Aha. Something is going to happen.

In a suspense novel, the same thing is true. You first foreshadow something that is going to happen. Don't reveal too much, just foreshadow.

For example in my novel FOXFIRE, on page three, my heroine, Grace Wilkins has just broken her engagement. She is fleeing the scene and enters the parking garage to access her car and make an escape. As she reaches the floor where her car is parked she hears a scraping of metal on concrete.

Once again, she heard the sound of metal grating across the floor. For endless seconds she held her breath, listening to her own racing heartbeat. With palsied fingers, she turned the key and the motor roared to life. She glanced through the rear window and inched her car out of the narrow parking space. Her headlight beams illuminated a man standing next to the elevator. Their eyes made contact, and with a sense of unease, she pressed the accelerator and sped toward the exit.

Nothing bad happened here. She just had a "moment" of unease, that sense of something not being right. But then, the following morning, Grace retrieves the newspaper. She opens it and glances at the front page.

Her breath imploded in a painful gasp. The headline screamed at her. Another woman had been found stabbed to death last night. The hairs raised on the back of Grace's neck. Her heart thumped as she recalled the man she'd seen lurking in the parking garage--the same one where this latest victim had been discovered. Oh, my God. Had she seen the killer?

Now the earlier suspense has grown more imminent. The reader is anticipating that Grace has seen the killer. Something bad is going to happen.

And with that...I'll leave you until tomorrow. You do want to know more, don't you? Suspense...

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