As promised, I’m back with another technique for creating suspense. If you’re just joining me in learning how to create suspense in writing, you may want to read Part One, Two, and Three along with this post.
In my opinion, this one is a little less intuitive. Here we go.
MORAL DILEMMA / DECISION
This is where you force your MC to make a difficult decision with huge and terrible stakes, usually a no-win situation. Let me explain further.
Your character has a choice. It’s not an easy choice. It may even be an impossible choice. You let the reader get an idea of this upcoming choice and how your MC doesn’t know what to do. Perhaps the results of the MC’s choice will bring about terrible consequences for him/him or someone else the reader loves. For example:
Your MC is heir to the throne, the eldest of the dying king’s two sons. He is a good prince and will be an even better king. He plans to rule with love and respect for his people. His younger brother is a lesser man and would rule as a tyrant if allowed. Of course, the good prince soon learns of the rival kingdom’s plot to destroy half of his future kingdom. There is one way he can stop the evil Wizard King, but it will cost him the throne. If he proceeds, his brother will inherit the kingdom and he will have to live as a captive in the rival kingdom, but no harm will come to his people.
Now that’s quite a dilemma.
Here’s another (much shorter) example: A teen girl has to choose whether to terminate her unplanned pregnancy.
The critical thing when employing this technique is to build up both sides of the decision as having terrible consequences. I hope I’ve explained that well enough.
What books have you read where the author uses this as their primary suspense technique?
Oh, I’ll be back with another technique soon – one that has to be used almost perfectly to be effective.