Though suspense is one of the best loved genre’s in both mainstream and Christian fiction, writing suspense has its own special challenges. There are many sub-genres in suspense—romantic, mystery, thriller, political, military, true crime, even medical—but there are elements and challenges that are shared between them all:
- Immediate Peril – suspense has to grab at the very beginning of the story.
- Foreboding Endures – the threat and expectation of more bad things needs to continue through the book.
- A Ticking Clock – though not an actual clock there is a sense of urgency in suspense. Sometimes, there’s even a sense of a countdown, whether real or implied.
- High Stakes – usually death is the risk, but it can vary from that of the main character, a loved one, or even a large group of people.
I asked a couple of suspense experts what they thought the greatest challenge of suspense is. Both of these gals had recent releases that I reviewed. Nancy Mehl’s Rising Darkness review is HERE and Lynette Eason’s Always Watching is HERE. I also got to interview both of these ladies. Nancy Mehl’s is HERE. And Lynette Eason’s, on the Suspense Sister site, is HERE! You can leave a comment on Lynette’s interview today and still get in on the drawing for a copy of her book, Always Watching!
Nancy Mehl – What do you see is the greatest challenge for writing suspense in general?
Readers want the suspense to stay hyped up all the way through, but that’s not realistic. I feel writers need time to develop characters and build some back story. Keeping the pace going while taking care of everything else can be challenging. I try to see my story as a roller coaster. Throughout the journey, the ride needs a twist, turn or hill to keep up the momentum. But for the “bumps” to have impact, first there has to be some straight track or short valleys.
So I guess we should add another bullet to my list above:
- the need for a breathing space in between the intense moments. Now that I think about it, my favorite books do have a little relief separating the dynamite.
Lynette Eason – What do you see as the greatest challenge to writing a story with intense suspense?
Keeping the suspense intense. 🙂 I want to keep the Hero and Heroine in trouble and afraid, but I don’t want the reader to think, “Good grief, enough already.” So, it’s a balancing act for sure. I want to keep it real and as reality based as possible without having the reader get bored.
That’s a quorum, and these ladies certainly know what they’re talking about!
Your Turn: Which of the 5 bullet points would you consider to be the most important element of suspense? Or maybe you can narrow it down to 2 most important ones? Oh, and head over to Lynette’s interview and leave a comment to enter for your chance to win a copy of Always Watching.