A suspense is a novel that increases intensity as the main character faces deception and danger as he devises a means to overcome the threat from the villain. Suspense is made up of choices, twists, and clues. Readers experience of apprehension, anxiety and fear as they follow the main character. Suspense connects with readers when they identify with the plight of the main characters, and the suspense grows the more the are engaged by the choices of the main characters, the degree of good vs. bad, and an outcome that allows the villain receives his punishment.
Reading a suspense has common elements of a TV commercial breaks and chapter endings in fiction. Expectation. “What’s going to happen next?”
Suspense is edge of the seat questions: Who did it? Why? Is this a clue? How will the culprit be stopped? They are what readers call page-turners. Readers have a difficult time putting the novel down to go to bed, prepare dinner or leave for an appointment. And why? Because the story is a threat. . . to a person, a group or the world.
How do you create page-turner?
Through conflict with a prolonged solution creating tension and crisis. The longer it takes to resolution the situation, the greater the tension and suspense. Think: conflict, suspense, drama, surprise, resolution.
People often ask the difference between a mystery and a suspense, and writers will provide varying answers. This comparison of mystery and suspense offers information that helps define them both very well. Although some of the elements found in mystery can also be part of a suspense, this does provide good information. Follow these points to best understand writing suspense
A mystery concerns itself with a puzzle. Suspense presents the reader with a nightmare.
A mystery is a power fantasy; we identify with the detective. Suspense is a victim fantasy; we identify with someone at the mercy of others.
A mystery can be likened to a myth. Suspense is more like a fairy tale.
In a mystery the hero or heroine already has the skills he or she needs to solve the puzzle. In suspense, he or she must learn new skills to survive.
In a mystery, thinking is paramount. In suspense, feeling is paramount.
The most important action in a mystery takes place offstage. In suspense, the important action happens onstage.
A mystery usually takes place within a small circle of friends. The hero or heroine of a suspense novel often finds him or herself thrust into a larger world.
Readers of mysteries are looking for clues. Readers of suspense are expecting surprises.
In a mystery, information is withheld. In suspense novels, information is provided.
The ideal reader of mysteries remains one step behind the hero or heroine. Those who read suspense should be one step ahead of the hero or heroine.
Mystery readers expect a series. Those who read suspense know a book can be a one shot.
The hero or heroine in a mystery is looking for suspects. The hero or heroine in suspense looks for betrayers.
A mystery hero or heroine must confront a series of red herrings. The suspense novel hero or heroine faces a cycle of distrust.
Mystery endings must be intellectually satisfying. Suspense endings must provide emotional satisfaction.
Mysteries are usually three hundred manuscript pages. Suspense novels can be longer.
Taken from: Skillman, Trish MacDonald. Writing the Thriller. Writers Digest Books. 2000.
Next week: Part II: What is the structure of suspense.