Tag Archives: creative writing

How to Build Up Suspense In Any Genre

Whether you are writing a mystery or a horror, or even a romance, suspense can be a total game changer in any kind of story. Here are some tips that will have your readers hanging on the edge of their seats in anticipation.

What is Suspense?

Dictionary definition:
A state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen. A quality in a work of fiction that arouses excited expectation or uncertainty about what may happen.

Simply Put: The fear of the unknown. Keeping the reader guessing. Who is the true murderer? What’s in the haunted mansion down the lane? Building suspense means offering the reader a question that they feel they must learn the answer to. The trick is to prolong giving them that answer while maintaining their interest.

Now, let’s talk about techniques you can use to help build up suspense in your story.

Solid Villains and High Stakes

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A stirring tension and conflict can be crucial in any genre. Great antagonists who challenge the protagonist create that exciting conflict. Explore the villains motivations. Why has he set this evil plan in motion? What is his connection to the hero? Throw away the idea of a villain who only wants to rain on a parade for no good reason. Really flesh out the character and make them a worth opponent for the hero.

The stakes must be high. Whatever is at risk, whether it’s a loved one’s life or the world’s safety, needs to be important to the protagonist. So important that they will jump through any hoop the antagonist throws at them. And if they fail, they would be devastated.

Point of View

Focus on the character’s perspective. See the world through their eyes. Let the reader learn information as the character does. Narrowing the point of view is an excellent way to build tension. Unlike an all knowing, omniscient narrator, the character won’t know what’s around the corner and what will happen next. Consider who tells the story, and how the story gets told.

Think about it like this. Imagine shining a flashlight into a dark room. You only see the beam of light, and not the rest of the room. The freaking Frankenstein monster could be standing in the corner, and you wouldn’t even know. Gives me the chills just thinking about it.

Image result for flashlight shining in dark cartoon

Pacing and Ticking Clocks

Experiment with style a bit. Short, fragmented sentences give a feel of breathlessness. Brief pauses will add weight to a scene. Keep in mind about the pacing of the overall story. The longer answers stay hidden, the longer some readers will continue reading. But don’t hold out for too long, readers may loose interest. It’s all about leaving a trails of information breadcrumbs for them to follow.

The use of time is another way to build suspense. Everyone can relate to the feeling of time running out. Your MC should be working against the clock. That’s why scenarios like “You have 24 hours to find the girl” work so well. Will the hero make it in time? What will happen if time runs out?

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After a Dark and Stormy Night

Hope you guys use these techniques when adding some suspense to your next story. What’s your favorite moment of suspense in a book or film? When I think of suspense, I always think of the movie, Speed. Keanu Reeves and a bomb strapped to a bus? Classic suspense thriller.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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The Brawn Man of Brooklyn (A Short Story)

They called it an extraordinary phenomenon.

A regular Hercules, Dr.Robinowitz on 3rd street claimed. Their son, Frank, was born with the capabilities of lifting objects 100 times heavier than his body weight. Super strength, the kids would say. His mother said Hail Mary in Italian ten times a day and cried, as if he son was some kind of devil. She constantly scolded him out of fear of his destructiveness. “Don’t touch that!” and “Don’t touch anything!” or “Don’t you dare touch the baby!”

He was a toddler. And his strength was something unexplainable, something that should remain a secret. If he pressed his hand into wall too hard, the wall would crack. Toys, if not handled gently, would be crushed or broken into pieces. Even the metal handle of his bicycle would be indented by his fingertips. He couldn’t control this, even as he got older, his power grew more dangerous. On the kindergarten playground, he pushed a kid out of the sandbox and cracked his rib. When he was seven years old, he threw a baseball and it landed three blocks away and through a car windshield.

He couldn’t touch anything. He wasn’t safe.

Frank would hold his small hands and peek into his sister Camilla’s crib when she was an infant. He was afraid of breaking her too.

His father owned a deli under the train tracks, Berardi’s Deli. Behind it was a dead patch of grass they called a backyard. And above it was a shoe box apartment they called a home. His father wore a filthy apron as he sat on the sidewalk’s edge, smelling like fennel seed and sweat. He smoked a cigarette and watched the kids in the street play. Frank, a small boy with small hands, sat beside him.

“Pops, why can’t I play with them?” The boy said “I promise I’ll be good. I won’t hit so hard. Honest.” He watched as the kids played stick ball.
His father gave him a side glance, taking a long drag and rubbing his stubbled chin. “Last time, you knocked a kid out.”

He looked down at his hands, discouraged “I-I didn’t mean to, Pops, he was….”

“Your mother with have a heart attack if she finds out you hurt someone else with your…” Trailing off, he stood up and stomped his cigarette out. The few remaining embers in the curb fizzled into the cement. “Don’t let nobody see you doing that. You hear me?” He warned. Frank’s eyes wandered to the window to the apartment above the deli, where his mother, with tired eyes, looked out.


“I don’t know if it’s a good idea, Camilla.” He said, looking down at his feet as they walked home from high school one crisp autumn afternoon. His black hair fell into a perfect greased curl.

“Sure it is,” His sister grinned, holding her biology textbook in her arms. “You love baseball.”

“Watchin’ baseball, sure. Not playin’ it,” He shrugged, still unsure “Pop’s will be mad. And Ma’s gonna be in hysterics if she finds out.”

She nudged him with her elbow. Her long wool skirt matched her mint green sweater. “Come on, don’t worry about that stuff, Frankie, you’d be amazing and you know it.”

Frank sighed, shoving his hands in his Letterman jacket. A chill blew between them. A police siren blared in the distance. The sun was setting, burning orange and gold.

“What if I hurt someone?”

“What if you only hit home runs?”

“I’m serious, Camilla,” He grabbed her arm lightly, as if he was holding a feather. They stood on the street corner across from their family’s deli. “I can’t control this. Someone’s gonna get hurt.”

“You can control it. You don’t have to be scared. You’re strong… super strong, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You can do something good with it.” The sirens grew louder.

As they crossed the street, a car screeched around the corner, being tailed by red and blue flashing lights. A police chase. Frank was in the middle of the street, frozen for a moment. Camilla screamed, pulling at his hand. “Frankie, move!” He wouldn’t budge. He didn’t want to be scared anymore. The car was barreling towards him. He pushed his sister out of the way, and braced for impact, with an arched back and outstretched arms.

The car slammed into Frank, metal crushed against his chest, pushing him back a couple of feet. His sneakers skid against the pavement. The vehicle was stopped completely, with three bewildered robbers wearing ski masks sitting inside. The headline in the newspaper the next day dubbed him “The Brawn Man of Brooklyn”.

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