So you want to write Suspense?
Every good story starts with a level of suspense and needs some tension or conflict to keep the reader interested enough to turn the pages of your book.
Here are some ways to create the tension you need and keep your readers hooked.
The hook of a story is usually the first sentence or in the first paragraph of your novel. By dropping your character into the middle of the action you can have your reader immediately wanting more. This is called the inciting incident.
A good example of a hook comes from J.K. Rowlings epic fantasy Harry Potter.
"Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."
The hook jumps right into the action, grounding the reader into the story while giving pertinent information of “who, what, where and why” of the novel. It also bears the weight of a universal question. "What makes the Dursleys normal? and, one might suspect, "why would the Dursleys need to make that statement?"
So, there must be a universal element to the hook as well. Raising the readers curiosity, he wants to continue reading in a state of suspended belief.
The trick is to keep your readers in the story world without pulling them out. Writing the craft of suspense is harder in some ways because the reader must be carried along without any sense of the writers intent to do so.
Some call placing a time limit on the resolution of your conflict the "ticking bomb." This technique raises the suspense level as we wait to see if the characters will survive whether it is an emotional conflict or physical one.
Keeping the stakes high for our hero or heroine will motivate your reader to want to know m ore. If the main character is involved in tracking a serial killer we'll want to know whether that killer is captured before he can kill again.
Create Character Dilemmas ~ I call it “when life falls apart in your picture perfect world." Whatever can go wrong for your main character can go wrong. And in a suspense novel, it usually does. It helps to throw a curveball every now and then to keep your reader on his or her toes. The unexpected plot twist mirrors life in a very real way. Doesn't it?
Another technique is the use of foreshadowing and a red herring. Foreshadowing is giving a hint of the trouble ahead for your characters. While a red herring is intended to divert the reader from difficulties ahead.