Building suspense and tension in a novel, short story, or even a 100 character piece of fiction is difficult, aggravating, and also fulfilling if done correctly. While not all types of books need this tension within them, I can assure you that tension will rear its head at some point in your character interactions. While Agatha Christie remains Queen of Suspense and Tension–she did invent the “killer in the room” idea after all–there are authors out there today who have mastered it as well.
Here are some tips on creating and keeping suspense alive in your writings.
ONE: Draw out the scene. I don’t mean get out your pen and paper here. rather, lengthen the time spent on this one scene. If you are telling the story from first person, have your main character begin to notice the other person doing little things. “I saw him brush his hair out of his eyes with his hands before staring out the window. His eyes were closed, but his breathing was harsh, rough. it was clear that something was wrong, but for the life of me, I wasn’t sure what it was.” Paint a picture of what is going on, exactly, and tension will build, especially if the Main Character has no idea what is going on either.
TWO: Direct from Dexter, have a character keep a secret about his life that no one can no. And now, have an event happen that gives the chance for this secret to come out. The character needs to deal with this while still acting normal and nothing is wrong. For best results: think on how you would act in the situation and write that into your tale.
THREE: If you’re writing Fantasy or sci-fi (or any, I guess, but especially these two), throw in a fight that is breaking out right now. Characters need to fight for their lives, and by using Tip One as well in this situation, any reader is going to be on the edge of their seat, trying to read faster to know who survives.
So, those are my three tips. What ones do you have?