The Two Most Important Tricks for How to Build Suspense

Perhaps the greatest skill necessary to keep readers glued to your pages is learning how to build suspense. Whether you’re writing a thriller or a quiet romance, suspense of one type or another is what makes readers race to the end of your story. Suspense comes in many different flavors, everything from the threat of a serial killer in that thriller to the delayed kiss in the romance.

Whatever the genre, suspense always results from two important ingredients: a question and a wait.

We find both these elements in the final chapter of William Faulkner’s acclaimed historical masterpiece Absalom, Absalom!

In this book, the question is, “Who or what has been hidden away in the shack on the old Sutpen plantation?”

The specific question needed to create suspense will vary from story to story, but, ultimately, it always boils down to that age-old demand, “What’s gonna happen?

As soon as the author has hooked readers’ curiosity with this question, it’s time to make them wait. In Absalom, Absalom!, Faulkner raises the question at the beginning of the final chapter and then does everything possible to delay both the character and the readers from discovering the answer.

Pacing plays a huge role in pulling off a successful waiting period. To force readers to savor every deliciously and frustratingly tantalizing moment, authors need to slow their pacing to a snail’s pace. Faulkner, a master of pacing, does this so beautifully, you can almost see his characters moving in slow motion as they approach the shack, climb the porch steps, enter the house, and start up the stairs. Every moment is drawn out with aching suspense sure to have readers clenching the book with bone-white fingers.

If you can inject this kind of suspense into your story, you can guarantee readers won’t be able to look away.

>>Click here to read 3 Easy (or Easier) Ways to Build Suspense

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! How will you build suspense in your story? Tell me in the comments!

The post The Two Most Important Tricks for How to Build Suspense appeared first on Helping Writers Become Authors.

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Author: K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

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  • August 7, 2023