QUICK FIX: How to add suspense
(Writers’ Forum, March 2008)
Does your story lack tension? Can you cut the tension with a knife or does your writing lack the suspense which keeps your readers on the edge of their seats?
Tension can make a good story into a riveting one and build your story into something sensational.
All stories need tension at some point, especially when building up to a climax. Your readers need to be alerted that something is about to happen. In a film this is often done through use of background music or symbolic shots - we have all seen how the lightening flashes as the gothic castle is approached, how the sun slips behind a cloud prior to bad news, how a rainbow appears to signify a happy ending. In a book, tension needs to be created through clever use of setting.
Change your language as the climax of your story approaches. Short, sharp sentences give a sense of impending doom
Take time to build the tension. The longer it takes the more the tension will build, especially if it’s an important scene
Feel the tension as you write. Ensure you are in the story with your character. If you feel the tension it will come across on the page
Remember, tension might be traumatic in everyday life, but it turns a good story a riveting one.