Suspense techniques aren’t just for the stabby books, my friends!
Do you wish you could add suspense to your novel? Want to know how to write a book people can't put down? Knowing how to use good suspense techniques can level up any manuscript from your nonfiction about gardening to your rom-com about Strip Karaoke.
Here are 6 techniques for making your book a page turner…
1. Start with a GOAL
All tension is built in relation to something. Once we know we are headed somewhere, we can start getting all angsty about whether we’re going to get there on time. Speaking of being on time…
2. TICKING CLOCK!
A ticking clock means: “It has to be done by X.” Any author on deadline who has cursed their editor (Definitely not me. *nudges voodoo doll back in closet*) knows how an ordinary situation involving a word document can become a stomach-wracking source of suspense when time pressure is involved.
Your character must have something personal to lose.
“It has to be done by 3am, or KAPOW will happen.” If your character doesn't reach their goal, they must have something to lose. Preferably something personal. (I’m not saying their ah-hem, but I’m not NOT saying their ah-hem.)
However, it’s not enough to have something to lose. You must have…
If your YA character knows they must save the world in Ch 1, how are you going to keep your book from stagnating? They need to save the world, then galaxy, then all the KITTENS in said galaxy.
Pro-tip: you can escalate conflict or stakes. And if you can’t make things worse, make the stakes cuter/more lovable cough*kittens*cough
This is a scene-level trick to keep your tension up. Get your audience expecting one thing, then do something else.
If something kinda-predictable needs to happen? Point your reader expectations HEY OVER THERE! Then do your regular thing & POOF it’s more interesting now.
Yes, the old standard. But here’s a tip: you don’t just have to dangle your poor character off a cliff to get a cliffhanger. You just have to dangle a piece of INFORMATION, then don’t answer it.
Trust me, it drives people crazy when you start to tell them something juicy and