How to Create Suspense

Suspense is what all successful fiction needs in order to keep readers interested. It is a feeling of pleasurable fascination as well as excitement mixed with apprehension, tension and anxiety generated from an unexpected, mysterious and rousing source of entertainment. If you have ever read a book or screenplay that gets your heart pounding, fingertips moist, gets you on the edge of your seat, and eager to intervene and help out the protagonist, then the writer has done a good job of creating suspense. If this continues until the last page, then he has done a great job in maintaining the suspense, which is also important. However, it is one of the biggest challenges faced by fiction writers. Below are some tips on how to create suspense:

Time: This is one of the most important factors to consider when creating suspense. There should be a target in the future that continues to loom. You can call this sort of a “ticking clock”. The clock should be working against the protagonist while in favor of the bad guys. Any time the protagonist is on the verge of coming out victorious something would occur in the antagonist’s favor. Every time this occurs, the burner under the reader’s seat is increased.

Make Use of Pressure: As everything turns out in the antagonist’s favor, the task faced by the protagonist should be created to seem like a nearly impossible task to surmount. His strengths should be stretched to its maximum, or at least to a point that would make him bend but never buckle under the pressure applied by the antagonist.

Give the Reader a Foresight: The viewpoints of both the protagonist and antagonist should be made known to the reader. Through this, the reader gets to see the danger coming the protagonist’s way in which he is unaware. Thereby increasing the tension as well as anxiety of the reader, making him wish he could jump in to warn the protagonist or prevent the danger altogether.

Be Unpredictable: Being predictable makes for a boring story. The protagonist’s steps to success should come at a price but the antagonist’s path should not be made so smooth either. Life can be so unpredictable and applying this in your fiction makes the whole story more relatable for the readers. The reader may have an idea about how the story is going to end but does not mean they should know how it would get there.

Make Use of Dilemmas: An important way of creating suspense is through the use of dilemmas. However, this should apply to both the protagonist and antagonist. According to the nature of the antagonist, a decision would be made without much fuss due to his selfish ego. However, the dilemmas facing the protagonist should put him in a position between the deep blue sea and the devil as he is the contrasting character. Dilemmas need time to be solved and coupled with the pressure of time constraints, tension and anxiety is generated.

Expectations: One of the facts in life is that we all wonder if we could live up to the expectations around us. Create tension through what others expect of your protagonist or main character. Can he live up to this or is he just another coward?

Test: You should test your main character from time to time as this is an immediate tension builder. This should be done without giving the reader any clue of what is coming. This makes the fiction a lot more interesting, creative as well as relatable.

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