This week: Use Suspense in WritingEdited by: Vivian
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Writers need to keep readers wanting to know more, to read the next chapter and the next. Suspense is needed in all genre and types of stories or books.
Suspense in Writing
I discovered a website created to help teachers teach creative writing. Two sections deal with writing suspenseful action-oriented passages. Suspense and action? Yes, suspense in needed in all stories and novels.
According to Creative Writing Solutions.com, more than one type of suspense is needed in action scenes: physical fighting scenes, verbal fighting, emotional suspense, fast-paced chase scenes. The opportunity and need for suspense is endless in writing.
The first place to build suspense needed in any writing is the first few sentences. According to Bill Reynolds, The Writer, August 2005, page 7, 'A proper opening picks the reader up by his collar and throws him into the story.'
The art of suspense means giving the reader something to worry about. In Latin suspendere means to hang, thus suspense, which avoids boredom and losing readers. The reader is compelled to turn pages, the cure for boredom.
Suspense (uncertainly, doubt, anxiety) is a must for all fiction. It should start from the very beginning of a story or novel, should be built into the premise and structure of any fiction writings.
According to William G. Tapply, The Writer, August 2005, the essential elements for suspense are as follows:
1. State story's plot as a question (not in the story itself), one that can be answered yes or no. Make a list of all the possible reasons why the answer could be 'no.' Those 'no' answers become the focus of problems and obstacles - suspense.
2. Create a likable and competent - but flawed - protagonist. (Protagonist = hero, good guy/gal) If the reader doesn't care about the protagonist, then suspense is meaningless. The flaw or flaws will help create needed suspense because the outcome will be in doubt.
3. Give the protagonist a powerful motivation. He/she must have strong desires, needs, wants. The basic and powerful human needs and drives are essential: Love, ambition, greed, survival are examples. Something vitally important must be at stake or readers can't believe the protagonist would never abandon the quest.
4. Give your protagonist highly motivated antagonists (opponents, villains). 'All stories need strong villains. Suspense rests on the possibility ' even the likelihood ' that the villain will defeat the hero.'
5. Keep raising the stakes and creating disasters. The formula for building suspense is a bad start that gets worse. Suspense is about problems and obstacles, disasters and failures, small triumphs and big reversals. As Tapply says, 'Never make things easy for your protagonist.'
6. Choose your story's point of view to maximize suspense. The objective POV allows the attention of the reader to shift from character to character. We, as readers, are allowed to interpret and imagine, to wonder and worry. We are drawn into the story by the changing of point of views from one character to another. The single POV limits only to one character's experiences and thoughts. Anything else is speculation, imagination, and worry.
7. Wind up the ticking clock. Tapply's words express this point best.
Suspense depends on urgency. Build a zero hour into your story's arc:
Antagonists of all kinds ' kidnappers, terrorists and assassins, of course
but also teachers and parents and editors, not to mention tides and storms
and seasons ' create time pressures and constraints.
Your story's momentum might build gradually at first, but soon it
becomes a race against the clock, and it accelerates as it rushes towards
its fateful climax.
Let's look at Creative Writing Solutions suggestions for suspense in fight scenes.
1. Keep sentences short. "...keeping your sentences short and direct will add to the feel of the piece immensely."
2. Pare the description down to basics. "When a character is fighting for his life, his entire life shrinks down to that survival instinct."
3. Know how characters move in a physical scene. "Planning out the movements of our characters for a fight scene is very important if we don't want to have to do a lot of rewrites."
One last point: Too much suspense, constant suspense will lose a reader just as not enough will. Using constant suspense causes the reader not to have time to think or rest enough to absorb the story.
The result of the correct use of suspense in any story is a riveting story that the reader cannot put down until finished.
Writing from Writing.Com
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There does exist an example of second person POV in fiction. In the nineties there was a brief fashion for interactive adventure books in which the reader is the hero and has to make decisions to progress through the book. So you would come to choice points such as, "You arrive at a place where three tunnels branch off the one you are following. Do you follow the left (turn to page XX), the right (turn to page YY) or the central tunnel (turn to page ZZ)?" It was an attempt to create computer games in book form and it soon died in the face of competition from that quarter.
However, it does give me the opportunity to write a letter giving you some feedback, doesn't it?
Yes, a bit off topic but a good opportunity for feedback. Thanks.
This is a good explanation of the differences between the points of view. I needed a quick reminder. Thanks!
POV is something that has come up recently in my university studies. I am a sucker for 1st person POV, you learning what's happening along with the main character. It feels a little more real.
Second person does appear in fiction - choose-your-own-adventure stories. But I have read a number of short stories in 2nd person POV when I was working as an editor and, you're right, they generally suck. But I have also seen a few published. Yet to read one I liked outside of the CYOA style.
Third person omniscient is apparently not the done thing nowadays, but epic fantasy and high fantasy feel they need to be written in that style. Who says you can't do it?
And my favourite ever book is King's 'Christine'. Sections 1 & 3 - 1st person; section 2 - 3rd person. It works brilliantly to me.
A person can write in any POV he/she desires, but what appeals to the reader and keeps that person interested is what is important.
The narration should be revealed so that the logical scheme of the different characters is preserved. It is here emphasized towards such news letter about characters and narration. It is a featured issue. I like it.
Thank you, I think.
Thank you for joining me again this issue. I hope to see you again in four weeks.
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