The one thing every writer wants is not just to capture the attention of their readers but also to hold and sustain that attention to the very end. One way the reader’s attention can be sustained is by the use of suspense.
It is a story writing technique that if mastered would keep your readers glued to your story and at the edges of their seats enraptured because they want to see what would happen next. If you are a story writer, especially a fiction writer like myself then knowing how to create suspense would help keep your readers from the very first read to the climax and resolution.
In this article, we would be looking at three possible ways you can create suspense in your stories.
1. Tell Your Story Chronologically
Here you follow the order of events sequentially from the start to finish. You develop your plot to tell us who your characters are and introduce the conflict to reveal their unique journey in the scheme of things. Then you build it up to the climax from there and reveal how they overcame the conflict and became victorious.
Let’s see an example:
You tell a story of a man born blind and how he struggled and struggled till he met Jesus and received his healing.
You just start from the very beginning, from the time of his pregnancy to his delivery, to the discovery of his blindness and the things he had to pass through growing up. Then you write about the encounter with Jesus and his healing, then you bring it to a logical conclusion.
Your readers would be interested to know what happened to your character that was born blind. You’ve captured their attention by revealing the conflict immediately as you’re introducing the character and they would want to follow that story to the end.
How you weave your words to tell your story chronologically is totally up to your creativity.
2. Start From the Middle of Your Story
Many writers also use this strategy to create suspense by getting the attention of their readers and as well sustaining it.
Here, you get all your readers into your story vehicle, drive to the middle of your story plot and drop them right into the action. You take a chapter or two to soak them in and after you’ve done this successfully, you can then travel back in time and reveal how it all started.
Let’s use our previous example:
Now, you would go right into the struggles of your blind character. The things he encountered as a blind man, his suffering or even achievements. Then you go back in time to reveal what happened at his birth. Afterwards, you come back to resolve the conflict by bringing him to meet Jesus.
The story remains the same but the plot was rearranged in this manner so you can create suspense. I would be interested in a story that starts this way.
Again, how you weave your words to achieve this in your story is totally up to your creativity.
3. Plot Twist
I’ll explain what a plot is quickly if you don’t know what it means. A story plot is simply the order of events in a work of fiction. It is how the story is arranged from start to finish to make sense to the reader.
Now a plot twist suggests a twist in the supposed arranged order of events. It is putting a knife in the way the readers expected the outcome of the story to be and showing them something more.
Let’s use our example again:
The blind character is supposed to meet Jesus and get healed right? Yes. Just when the meeting is about to take place, the Pharisees arrest Jesus and crucify him.
At this point, what do you suppose the blind man would do? His only chance of getting back his sight is dead.
Your readers at this point would feel the hit more because they would be overwhelmed and would want to know what finally becomes of the blind man.
Then you introduce the twist of the story: the powers to heal the sick has been given to the believers and it was made available through the death and resurrection of Jesus. So a random believer would then carry out the task of healing the blind character.
You managed to create that suspense because you altered your reader’s expectations and offered them another route to pass through while reading your story.
It is important to note that under these three ways of creating suspense lies many techniques that would help you through the writing journey. I’d write about it later, for now, let’s digest this first.
The above is an excerpt from my book, ‘Guide to Fiction Writing’ I’m still working on it and can’t wait to share it with you all.
Maryann Ijeoma Nwokoye