ONE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO BETTER FICTION:
How To Create & Maintain Suspense
by Janet Chester Bly
1.) Study samples such as Alfred Hitchcock, Dorothy Sayers, Daphne du Maurier stories or Dean Koontz, John Grisham, Anne Perry novels when you get stuck. Or find your own favorites—there’s a bazillion choices.
2.) Encourage your reader to say, like Alice in Wonderland, “curiouser and curiouser.” Make them curious enough to finally care. Make them care enough about the characters or plot to stay with the story.
3.) Describe one delightful detail at the end of the scene or chapter. Make them hear and see the doorknob turn.
4.) Meditate on Deuteronomy 28:65-66. Produce at least one believable moment of pure despair and hopelessness, then up the ante with one more challenge.
5.) Know your reader’s A.Q. (Anxiety Quotient). Aim for enjoyable anxiety. . .whether pumped with horror or humor. . .filled with who-done-it mystery or risky romance.
6.) Suspend the reader over the conclusion like a pendulum—crossing over, passing by ever so close, then swinging left and right.
7.) Allow the character to surprise you, the author, by attempting an action you can’t resolve right away. Work at the “Aha!” moment in yourself first.
8.) Bait the reader with side plots. Entice them with chilling possibilities. Mess with their minds with mathematical hypotheses. Drive them crazy all you want, but give them a satisfying ending.
Janet Chester Bly has published 31 nonfiction and fiction books, 19 she co-authored with Christy Award winner Stephen Bly. Titles include cozy mysteries The Hidden West Series (contemporary) and The Carson City Chronicles (historical). She resides at Winchester, Idaho on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation at 4200 ft. elev. Her married sons, Russell, Michael & Aaron, live down the mountain in Lewiston with their families. She's grandmother to Zachary, Miranda, Keaton & Deckard and great-grandma to Alayah.