MAGGI ANDERSEN'S BLOG Bestselling Author of Historical Romance

Monday, November 5, 2007

Suspense is carried by strong characters that engender empathy. The reader has to care about what happens to them.
But action doesn't necessarily engender suspense. The axe lifting is far more important than the axe falling.
Suspense is anticipation. The build up gets us sweating, not the resolution, because it is during the build-up that our imaginations are working overtime and conjuring even greater fears than those on the page.
Play fair with your reader. Deception (like a false alarm) can have its place but don’t use it in place of genuine suspense.
Avoid oddly chosen words or clumsy inaccurate phrases that shatter illusion. Overwritten text, overly colourful mixed or strained metaphors take readers out of the story and stop them absorbing what they are reading.
Let your reader know that something is coming, but not necessarily what.
Foreshadowing is a powerful tool in the writer’s arsenal, creating foreboding and suspense with a minimum or words, if you do it properly, the reader won’t notice the odd, ominous metaphor, the word choices you make to create a specific effect, the occasional dark meaning to a line of dialogue, but all these things sink into their subconscious and tell them something is building.
Make the payoff worth the wait. If the resolution is not worthy of the suspense you have crafted, you create an anti-climax.
A favourite of mine is American crime writer, Sue Grafton. Her similes and metaphors are not only original, they fit Milhone perfectly. She has created a fascinating character in Kinsey Milhone. She has human weaknesses but never acts out of character in thought or deed.