1. YugiohPro01
    Offline

    YugiohPro01 Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2012
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    0

    I really might need help with this

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by YugiohPro01, May 25, 2012.

    I don't usually ask for help on Writing techniques, I find it more interesting to test them out myself and find my own method of doing it, but I have found problems with one thing no matter how many times I try it out. I don't write many Horror or Mystery stories but even at some scenes of my Short Story or Current Novels I need help with one technique to grab the reader's attention. I can never fully understand or successfully introduce the element of suspense. For an example, often my Characters are found in situations that are frightening and fill the character with great angst. But I am never able to capture those scenes perfectly and often fall short of creating a compelling scene. So I don't ask from members to tell me how to write suspense but if it isn't too much trouble some tips or hints would be of great use.
     
  2. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Sir Alfred Hitchcock has spoken on this subject. He presents a scenario of a man sitting at the table with a bomb ticking down, taped to the table leg.

    If neither the character nor the reader knows the bomb is there, suspense is absent.
    If the reader knows about the bomb, but the character does not, you have suspense.
    If both the reader and the character know about the bomb, suspense is far less
    However, if neither the character nor the reader know how much time is left, the level of suspense increases.
    If the reader knows there are five minutes left, but the character does not know how much time is left, there is less suspense than if the character knows and the reader does not. In fact, the character calmly working to disarm the bomb will drive the reader to a high pitch in that case.
    Suspense is much greater if the reader only knows the bomb has less than a minute left than jf the reader knows it has exactly thirty five seconds left.
    Suspense is much greater if the reader knows the bomb is in its final seconds rather than if the reader knows the bomb is in its final hours.

    From this, we can conclude that key elements of suspense are:
    Jeopardy
    Immediacy of the threat
    Uncertainty/incomplete information from the reader's perspective
     
  3. YugiohPro01
    Offline

    YugiohPro01 Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2012
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    0
    Okay he provides an interesting theory on suspense. But once again, even though I can try to implement such elements in my stories, I do not know if it will completely succeed. But, once again I appreciate any advise and all advise bring me closer to learning more about the technique. Thank you for posting I believe I understand the theory now but I still need to develop my style of using it.
     
  4. indy5live
    Offline

    indy5live Active Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2012
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Houston
    In mystery or horror, in my opinion, it's about what's not there. Blood is all over the walls and body parts are everywhere and large claw marks are cut into the floor...and then there is a noise coming from the floor above that the chracter's aren't sure what caused it. Without directly telling the reader your character's are afraid or curious or scared, etc. tell us what they are seeing, hearing, smelling, etc. Use the traditional elements that would make the reader feel the same emotions as your characters. And a sense of urgancy always helps. The less time they have to solve something or escape the more intense the scene will be for the reader.
     
  5. YugiohPro01
    Offline

    YugiohPro01 Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2012
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    0
    Okay so use the elements of smell, sight and sound to create and atmosphere that gets the reader hooked to the piece. Okay I get this I have seen it in many novels or stories I have read. Again guys thank you for the advise they're really helping me better understand the concept of suspense. Keep them coming.
     
  6. Fivvle
    Offline

    Fivvle Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2012
    Messages:
    214
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Washington
    I find that small implications toward more sinister motives or actions garners a lot of suspense.

    For example, I read a short story once where the speaker was observing the people in the car in front of her as she drove on a dirt road - an old male driver was talking to what the speaker described as an "incredibly beautiful blonde woman". He was making loving gestures and giving her almost all his attention, but she never moved a muscle. She was stiff as a board, in fact. Tension and suspense build as the speaker goes through all the possible scenarios of why this is happening in front of her, but she NEVER SAYS ANYTHING ABOUT MURDER. It's just implied. I thought I knew what was going on and I thought that the speaker was dumb for not seeing the "obvious truth".

    And then the beautiful blonde woman turned out to be a dog somehow. That writer basically exercised mind control on me.
     
  7. YugiohPro01
    Offline

    YugiohPro01 Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2012
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    0
    Okay so basically using indirect intentions in the story to keep the reader hooked but then use a plot twist to completely amaze the reader. Okay I guess I could try that. Other comments?
     
  8. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Who said anything about plot twists? Taking the big swing to try to knock it out of the park will probably just generate a momentary breeze, unless you're at the very top of your game.

    Build suspense with small escalations. For every momentary relief, provide something more to fear - never quite seen, never fuilly known.

    Every time a fear comes to fruition, you are relieving the tension, and there is a bit of a let down. The danger just around the next corner is always the worst. Small escalations and a rising sense of dread is the way to build suspense.

    Twists, for the most part, are shiny things that rarely have real impact. The exceptions aren't really twists at all, but rather the inevitable outcome the reader nevertheless failed to anticipate.
     
  9. YugiohPro01
    Offline

    YugiohPro01 Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2012
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    0
    Okay so the main thing in suspense is trying to build enough hype for the reader and then finish everything with a big bang? If I am getting it right I should lead the reader into deeper shadows, becoming deeper with each step until finally, when I want to finish the novel, I should reveal the hype with a plot twist?
     
  10. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    How you end it is up to you. You can either have your protag emerge from the horror to discover his fears were groundless, or you can have that he fears catch up with him. But delay it as long as possible, and keep tthe relief/letdown short.

    Or leave the outcome ambiguous. That is also an option. Just don't throw a twist at it in the end hoping for a big payoff.
     
  11. YugiohPro01
    Offline

    YugiohPro01 Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2012
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    0
    Okay so the ending is irrelevant as long as I keep the tension present and keep the reader close to the darkness and uncertainty of it all. Okay once again thank you all for the helpful advise, I think I will be able to progress my novel's suspense scenes a bit more successfully now.
     
  12. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,828
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Do a writing exercise - Your main character turns a corner finds an escaped lion a hundred yards away licking his chops. There's a nearby tree and an unattended baby carriage nearby.
    However your main character is - a. blind , b. in a wheelchair , c. An ex lion tamer haunted by his former profession , c. a boy with a broken leg or d. arguing with his girlfriend.
    Does he go for the tree , become a hero only to be faced with a carriage full of empty beer bottles. Is there anyone nearby to warn the blind person? Does the young man race up the tree before his girlfriend? Maybe take it from someone watching the action unfold, with mounting horror.

    For me suspense is delaying the predicted outcome of an action scene.
     
  13. tristan.n
    Offline

    tristan.n Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2010
    Messages:
    286
    Likes Received:
    26
    Location:
    Overland Park, KS
    I think it's much more suspenseful when the character doesn't know what's going on and can't seem to explain it to the reader (or the narrator can't if in third person). But I like organization, so chaos puts me on edge and I can't rest until it's resolved. lol
     
  14. YugiohPro01
    Offline

    YugiohPro01 Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2012
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well writing exercises don't really help, as I said in the main post I've been testing out different ways to implement suspense but I have not had much success. But all in all I think I understand that they key to suspense is to leave the reader in the dark, that way letting the suspense build up as much as it can.
     
  15. Ubrechor
    Offline

    Ubrechor Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2011
    Messages:
    107
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Some Other Place
    I think the most important thing about suspense for me is the notion that something will be lost if it all goes wrong. Most often it's the fear that the protagonist will die. In this case, the reader needs to feel for the character - enough that the reader would not want the protagonist to die/fail. So creating a good character is fundamental in my opinion.

    Otherwise, if you are attempting to add suspense into the descriptions and so forth, I would advise, as others have already mentioned, straying away from giving the reader all the information. Or rather, give the reader some information that the protagonist is not yet privy to. If the reader feels for the character, and they know that there's a monster that will tear them apart in the next room, but the character doesn't yet know this, then the reader will definitely feel the suspense.
     
  16. Ettina
    Offline

    Ettina Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    436
    Likes Received:
    18
    Think of a time when you felt the way you want your character to feel. Think of how the emotion affected your body (tension, heart pounding, etc), how it colored your view of the surroundings (such as small noises sounding louder/more threatening), how it affected your perception of time, and so forth. Write those little details in, and it'll draw the reader into the character's mental state.
     
  17. Radka Baranaiova
    Offline

    Radka Baranaiova New Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2012
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi. i find that using short sentences help a lot too. try to imagine yourself in that exact situation and add your senses to it
     
  18. newlywriter
    Offline

    newlywriter New Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2012
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    I agree, if you cannot put yourself in your character's shoes, it's difficult to describe it on a paper...
     

Share This Page