Monday, October 10, 2011

Suspense in writing

I love these tips on writing suspense, which were a big help to me while I worked through my last WIP.  I supplement with stills from some of my MOST favorite hitchcock films.

The post is originally from the Writer's Digest site and written by Simon Wood.

Some of my favorite of Mr. Wood's tips include:

Use time constraints. Ahh, all hail the ticking clock. It can amp stakes up in a big way.

Keep the stakes high! As Wood points out, it's not necessarily about "global annihilation." Instead, "the story must be about a crisis that's devastating to the protagonist's world."

Apply pressure. Your protag must face seemingly insurmountable odds. "All [her] skills and strengths must be stretched to the breaking point in order to save the day."

Create dilemmas. I love Sophie Kinsella's ability to set up an awkward dilemma that turns into a misunderstanding at the MOST inopportune moment. As Wood puts it, "the choice must seemingly be a lose-loss situation for the protagonist."  

Complicate things. Or as Wood says, "Pile on the problems."

and finally, Create both real good villains and really good heroes. 

Wood closes by saying "suspense writing is all about creating a pressure cooker with no relief valve."

All excellent advice about building suspense in your writing.  Please check out the FULL article.


  1. LOVE these, and it's so true. I definitely used some of them in EREBUS.

  2. I love the stills from suspense movies. I look forward to reading the article. Thanks.

  3. Great post! Thanks for the info and links. This is something I've been struggling with in my WIP, so this is helpful.

  4. Love this, Kat! I'm currently working on adding more tension and suspense to my MS, so this was perfectly timely. And the images are fantastic!

  5. Great post! These points are important to keep in mind for all genres.

  6. Love the stills! I'm a (new) huge fan of Hitchcock :) And awesome brekadown of tips. I'm going to check out the full article now!

  7. Love this! I am bookmarking for my revisions! Thanks!

  8. Definitely Holly, you keep the suspense high in Erebus.

    Thanks Connie. :0) I LOVE those old Hitchcock movies.

    Oh good, Jaime!

    Hooray Katy- glad to hear it.

    So true Alicia- I think suspense is needed no matter the story.

    Cool Rida! I love Hitchcock. I think his Rebecca is my favorite, but there are so many good ones.

    So glad, Alison- I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.

  9. Great tips.

    I love love love Rebecca!

  10. Gosh, you can't do better than Hitchcock for suspense. Great photos. I think I've seen nearly all of these movies.

    Very helpful tips, Kat. Thanks!


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