Building Suspense in your story.
See the types of sentences you need to build suspense. This would be a good lesson.
USE ADVERBIAL CLAUSES OF TIME
Adverbial clauses of time are phrases that locate actions in chronological relation to other actions. For example:
‘Before I could reach the exit, I felt something wrap around my leg . . .’
‘In the middle of the night, I heard an eerie whispering’
In the examples above, suspense is created by the two adverbial phrases. When we read ‘before I could reach the exit’, we know something happened that prevented the narrator from reaching their immediate goal. This creates suspense, by raising our curiosity about the outcome: ‘Why couldn’t she reach the exit?’ This questioning is further provoked by the use of ‘could’ (a ‘conditional’ word), as it creates a sense of possibility.
Practice making actions seem more suspenseful using adverbial phrases to open sentences. As an exercise, write three sentences using the following openings:
‘In the middle of the night, I . . .’
‘Before I could even run, the . . . ’
USE SHORTER SENTENCES
‘No exit. I tear back to the main corridor. Can’t afford another dead end – they’ll find me in a minute. A door. Could this be it? Not even a moment to unfold my floor plan.’
USE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
Changing a character’s lot or situation can be used make your story gripping. Human drama is effective for drawing readers in because it trades in raw emotion. If a character is in a downward spiral and making terrible (or even life-threatening) choices, the reader wonders whether things will change for the better or not.
To create engrossing suspense in you character arcs:
1. Give primary characters flaws that threaten to derail their passage to their goals – leave readers asking ‘will they or won’t they overcome?’
2. Show your character making forward progress and taking steps back: The best path to a goal is seldom a straight line.
3. Keep surprising or shocking information about your characters’ backstories and current situations for climactic moments.
Character development can create the excitement in the face of uncertainty that makes readers curious. Cliffhangers in suspense writing don’t have to involve actual cliffs. Your main character’s internal conflict can be equally precarious and suspense-creating.
USE TIME LIMITATIONS
Time limitations add pressure and help to stack the odds against your characters. The ticking bomb is the obvious example of a time-sensitive plot device that increase suspense. But time limitations can be used in all fiction genres: Romance, historical fiction, mystery, fantasy and others. Some examples of suspense-generating time limitations:
1. Two characters are romantically interested in each other but haven’t spoken out, and one is planning to book a one-way transcontinental flight in two days’ time.
2. A woman is fighting a gambling addiction and is given one month to pay back a ruthless loan shark.
3. A college student is running late to his final exams which start in fifteen minutes from the story’s opening.