Jan. 7th, 2005 07:26 am
lullenny: (eats)
[personal profile] lullenny
Oops. I seemed to have missed one. Here it is, only a little out of order.


The following is an excerpt from Part III of the book Making Shapely Fiction, by Jerome Stern. The first two parts are very much worth reading as well. The book is available in paperback.


Suspense is the way you make your audience worry. Suspense gets readers to keep turning pages.

Suspense is the intense anxiety created by raging forest fires, stalking killers, and races to the bank to deposit the money minutes before the bank forecloses on the mortgage. But all narratives need to create suspense in some way, whether your material involves a ticking time bomb or a troubled marriage.

Comic writing depends on suspense. Will the feuding couple recognize that they belong together before either one does something really stupid? Will the good, bumbling lad be unjustly expelled from the school?

Serious writing depends on suspense. The stakes may be life or death, love or loss, insight or blindness. Whether you look at Jane Austen or Dostoyevsky, Thomas Hardy or Alice Walker, you'll find suspense. As a reader you nervously want to know what happens next, hoping for one resolution and fearing others.

Tension underlies suspense. Plot, pacing, intrigants, cliff-hangers, zigzags, partial disclosures of information, delicate situations, intimations of fear and hope -- all are part of the orchestration of suspense.

But at the center of real suspense is character. Readers have to be emotionally involved before they can suffer your character's disappointments, be afraid when pain threatens, and hope fervently that when sweet Antonia's taxi is stuck in traffic, and it's raining, the policeman will let her through the train gate, to be reunited with her beloved Bernard before he returns to the darkness of Trondheim.

See Character, Cliff-hanger, Intrigant, Plot, Position, Tension, Zigzag.

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