The Element of Suspense. . .


There are books upon books out there on how to succeed at what it is you want to do and three steps/seven steps/twelve steps, a decision you need to make, process you need to take, etc. This is all well and good, and some are big believers in those processes.

I, however, am not one of them. There is more than one way to skin a cat (Aside: Who came up with that saying anyway? Cat skinning? Really?).

I am a big believer in doing whatever works for you when writing. I have some sort of writing attention deficit disorder. On my best days, I’ll turn on my Jill Scott Pandora station, sit down with a mug of crack coffee (Dunkin’ Donuts. Addictive. ‘Nuff said) and pound away at the keys for hours. On my worst days, I end up on Wikipedia looking up some pointless fact and watching superhero movies (more on that next post).

Good fiction, to me, includes enough suspense at the end of each chapter that makes you want to continue reading it, no matter what may be calling for your attention. My wife told me about a coworker who started reading The Lost Testament and didn’t put it down until after she had read the first chapter. Others have told me that they just could not put the book down.

So, how do you keep readers in suspense?

I do it one way. I try to end every chapter on an emotional climax that makes you say “Oh crap! I want to see how this thing turns out.”

Presto, now you have to read a few pages to see what happens. If you have an ensemble cast, like in The Lost Testament, you might not find out what happens to Darrion after Violet dies immediately in the next chapter. You might have to go a few pages, but what’s in those few pages (I hope), make you want to find out what happens to Jolene, Betty Lou, Charlie, Geary, Georgie, or Jack Miles.

There are no magic formulas when it comes to writing, but there are always good ideas, and those good ideas might give you GREAT ideas. Be blessed and keep writing.

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