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.

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