How To Build Suspense In Your Story – Piggy Mirror Moments Revealed

Photo by Ayla87

Photo by Ayla87

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.

What are some of your favorite suspenseful moments in film?


About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

6 thoughts on “How To Build Suspense In Your Story – Piggy Mirror Moments Revealed

  1. Angie Arndt says:

    Love this, Michelle! (And the piggy video is so cute!) Bookmarking this one, too. You’re right, whether you write suspense or romance, you always want to keep the reader turning those pages.

    Great post!

  2. Love this, especially the video. Favorite suspenseful moments…One stands out. The shower scene in Psycho. 🙂

  3. The scene in Lord of the Rings Return of the King when Frodo is in Shelob’s cave and he first releases the light that Galadriel gave him. When he sees Shelob for the first time, it sends shivers down my spine.

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