As a parent, suspense is the flow of everyday life. After all, what mom could predict her children would try to recreate Noah’s ark with a cool mist humidifier, or hide their checkbook on the window ledge behind the curtains, or bump over the end cap display at the grocery store?
Yes, I have totally been there.
Suspense is a part of everyday life, but it seems often hard to create on the page. To come up with ideas for suspense, it is helpful to look for unexpected possibilities in your story.
If a reader knows you bring out the unexpected consistently they will come back for more. That’s why it is so important when you establish your readership that they know your skill with suspense.
You’re not a suspense writer? That does not mean you shouldn’t have suspense in your stories. Suspense adds that unexpected flair of fun. It can be something a child does that creates an awwww moment, or a pet does that creates a dose of fun. Romance with suspense is awesome.
Here is goofy clip example of just this type of thing:
How To Build Suspense In Your Story:
*Look for unexpected culprits. Often suspense comes into play when someone unexpected enters the scene. An old flame, a rival, a stray dog, a dangerous stranger.
How can a stray dog build suspense? If you are walking your dog and a stray dog comes into view of your dog. You have that millisecond sense that something is about to go terribly wrong. And then your dog takes off full tilt in the direction of the other. Think of the number of things that can happen.
An old flame can be dangerous if their new girlfriend can’t stand you and has a malicious streak a mile wide. What if she tells your new date that you sobbed on your ex’s answering machine. Embarrassing.
A dangerous stranger could follow you for two or three blocks. You must decide whether to confront them, or lose them.
*Look for unexpected moments. When the reader is expecting you to do a certain thing because it is what is usually done, do the opposite. Add an unexpected obstacle to what would normally happen next that takes the character in a totally new direction.
*Look for the illusion. Just like the piggy movie above, look for moments when you can turn things on end. The reader is seeing only one side of something and slowly reveal it is completely different than it first appeared.
*Look for setting boosters. Look for things in the setting that draw out the scene longer to sit in the suspense while adding in setting boosters. For example, in the movie Twister, the hero and heroine are running for their lives from a tornado. As they run, objects go over their head and they must duck. Then, they get into a barn full of sharp farm tools. Finally, they get out to find this little shed with a pipe to anchor themselves to. Without the previous suspense boosters the scene would be way less suspenseful.