Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!

Suspense – Authors Weigh In

Dagger in hand held forward pointing to the right

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.

Rising DarknessI 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:Always Watching

  • 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. 

Author: Marji Laine

Marji is a recently "graduated" homeschooling mom whose twin girls have blessed her by sticking around the nest for a little longer. She spends her days directing the children’s music program at her church and working with the authors of Write Integrity Press to put out the best possible version of their books. Raised in suburban Dallas, she got her first taste of writing through the stories of brilliant authors of their day, Mignon Eberhart and Phyllis A. Whitney, and through stage experience. After directing and acting in productions for decades, Marji started writing her own scripts. From that early beginning, she delved into creating scintillating suspense with a side of Texas sassy. She invites readers to unravel their inspiration, seeking a deeper knowledge of the Lord’s Great Mystery that invites us all.

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