07 Jul

Create Suspense in Fiction Part Six

Techniques for creating suspense - part sixI’ve summarized all my suspense techniques at the end of this post. Today, I’m here to present number six.
In this one, the secret keeper doesn’t have to be the MC. In fact, it may be best if it’s not. The secrets must relate to the plot or characters central to the story.
I’m currently reading the book Miles to Go by Richard Paul Evans and he uses this technique very well in this book. In it, the MC meets a lady who introduces herself as Angel. Later, when he’s at her apartment, someone stops by asking for someone named Nicole. When he asks her about it, she says nobody named Nicole lives there. Later, he’s talking to the landlord who asks how Nicole is doing. By this point, we know that Angel is keeping some pretty big secrets and we desperately want to know what they are and why.
So, that’s all I have for now. These six techniques can be used to create suspense in any story.
  1. Possible DangerPresent possible danger and consequences. Then have the MC ignore it or think it can’t happen to them
  2. Lurking Danger – A threat exists that reader knows about, but MC doesn’t – usually only works with multiple POV
  3. Big Moment Trouble – Present a situation that everyone knows needs to happen, but we don’t know if the MC will be able to get there – plan gone wrong – flat tire on way to big interview
  4. Moral Dilemma / Decision – Force MC to make a difficult decision with huge and terrible stakes – usually a no win situation
  5. Closing DoorsMake the MC close doors the reader knows MC will need later on
  6. Keeping Secrets – Character keeps secrets that create danger/problems for MC or someone else we want to succeed
Which techniques do you use?
Can you think of others that don’t fit into one of these six?
Let me know in the comments.
01 Jul

Create Suspense in Fiction Part Five

Techniques for creating suspense - part fiveI’m back with the next technique for creating dramatic tension, or suspense, in fiction. You have to be quite deft in using this technique to make it effective. If you’re just joining me, you may enjoy reading about techniques one, two, three, and four.  Okay, here we go.
This one is all about the setup. Your reader knows that your MC will have some kind of serious confrontation for the climax of the story. Your reader also knows what things/people will be useful in defeating the opposition. Well, throughout the story, your MC will need to close doors and burn bridges that would clearly help him/her at the end. This only works if the reader knows that these doors need to remain open. Basically what happens is your MC systematically lowers their own odds at winning in the end, even though they may not get what they’re doing or they have good reasons to do so at the time.
Let’s see if I can come up with a good example.
MC is planning a hiking trip up to the summit of some mountain where the weather is known to be extremely tempermental; blizzards can turn up anytime without warning. He has prepared well. Even bought a new coat just in case one of those freak blizzards chances in. Well, on his way, he sees some homeless guy and decides to give him the coat because the guy looked like he might die without it and the weather guy predicted sunny skies all week. As he nears the top of the mountain later that evening, the weather shifts and in rolls the dreaded blizzard. As he tries to stay warm, he imagines that bum wearing the one thing that might have saved his life.

Okay, that’s a poor example, but I think it gets the point across. Character closes a door that the reader knew needed to stay open. The reason you have to use this technique with skill is because the reader has to feel the problem building even though the character doesn’t quite get it.