1. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Suspense at the Start of a Story

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Cacian, Dec 19, 2011.

    I want to keep a suspense at the beginning of a story.
    How do I do it?
    Should I stress on

    1) on my characters by using THEY since the readers does no who THEY is/are.


    2) the topic/plot


    3) the time/place/era/

    or all?


    This is one of my opening lines

    They started to walk fast towards the nearest cafe they spotted as they crossed the road.
    They needed to get to a phone as quickly as possible as everything depended on it.
    They had no idea who was going to be answering it or why. The number they got throught the letter box was unexpecetd but all the same worth trying.
    They had about 15minutes to make the phone call then decide what to do next.
     
  2. Prophetsnake
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    Prophetsnake Contributing Member

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    Oh I think any of the three would work, depending. You could keep them wondering what it is all about forever, I would suggest. I found myself in suspense by the end of the second sentence.
     
  3. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    Well, the reader needs to be oriented somehow. Repetitive use of 'they' isn't going to do it. Going to be annoying, if anything.

    Suspense is generally the duty of the plot, though you can create a suspenseful opening by describing a strange or alarming situation that demands resolution.

    Somewhat related: there was some novel I learned about in a creative writing course that was written entirely in first person plural (using 'we') for a group of people, family members, something. What was it? Maybe there's more than one. Writing in third-person plural (using 'they') has worked, but only when you specify who 'they' are.
     
  4. Prophetsnake
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    Prophetsnake Contributing Member

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    That is intersting! What if it used "Them" or "Those" in place of "They"? Do you think it might be more suspenseful? What if they waled slow instead of fast? That should increeze suspense by plenty.
     
  5. Marge
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    Marge Member

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    I think it would be more suspenseful if you took out “they” altogether. Get us inside one character’s head and ‘show’ the urgency to get to that phone instead of telling us.

    Example:
    Linda’s sneakers quickened on the pavement. Almost there. She cast a quick glance at Ken. He looked scared, too. She would have reached over and grabbed his hand but for the crumpled piece of paper in her clammy palm.
    “Fifteen minutes,” she whispered, “that’s all we have.” The cafe loomed ahead, its dimly lit sign beckoning through the darkness. She released a ragged breath. Yes, they would have a phone.

    Okay, maybe not the best example, but you get the idea. Omniscient POV can be used, but if you use third person POV it gets us closer to the action.
     
  6. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Marge this is a beautiful piece you have written compared to mine.
    The word OMNICIENT sounds interesting though I do not what I means , I will look it up.
    According using the third get you closer to the action and they deos not.
    Would you mind elaborating a bit more I am interested to know why you thought that.
    I am the opposite.
    I though THEY which is a bigger number, brings more suspense because it is unknow in terms of who or how many they are.

    PS now I know what it ominscient means.
    interesting it has a religious connotation to it.
     
  7. Prophetsnake
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    Prophetsnake Contributing Member

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    Hmm theat makes perfect sence to me, though I think maybe the omniscient point of view sounds very suspenseful if might be better if you left out the scient part of it since it actually is the same as science and just went with the omni though there is something to be said for both POVs depending on what a POV is or is not in the case of this or they or them.
     
  8. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Are you doing what I think you're doing?
     
  9. Prophetsnake
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    Prophetsnake Contributing Member

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    i think Am am thinking what you thik I am thinkng but I think that is down to a bit of thought at the end of the think.
     
  10. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    What an inane reply.
     
  11. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    I see.
    How about he or she or a name like this

    He started running looking to find the nearest coffee shop.
    He was in a hurry, he felt cumbersome, tired and exhausted thinking about it.
    He did not even see that he had passed two smaller quaintier coffee shops.
    He needed to get to a phone as quickly as possible. He had 15 minutes and not one second more.
    with the paper with the blue numbers clunched in his hand, he could feel sweat coming down his hair line and his back.
    He had no other choices but to do what he had to do.
    He was adament this was the only way to it all
    .

    If I specify who they are then I am giving already lots of clues.
    I want to maintain anonymity of either my characters or the plot or preferably both.
    I am wondering if there are other ways around it.
     
  12. Marge
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    Marge Member

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    Cacian, I was referring to omniscient POV in the sense that the reader is put into the heads of all the characters. I think suspense is just more effective in third person since it closes the narrative distance. The reader is more easily engaged by sharing one character’s thoughts and emotions as opposed to several at once.

    Using ‘they’ does not necessarily create more suspense. You can have the same amount of people dashing across the street for the phone, but if we are keenly aware of the inner thoughts/turmoil of just one of the characters it’s going to have a bigger impact on the reader.

    Hope that clarifies. :)
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as with all those 'they's, there are now way too many 'he's and so many sentences starting with it, it's a boring read... plus, there's a lot of redundancy... here's one way to avoid those probs:

    ...this starts out with suspense and keeps it tight... and with a minimum of 'he's... hope it helps you to see how you can avoid boring repetition and vary your sentence starts...
     
  14. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Indeed it does Marge thank you.
    I understand what you mean.
    Thank you for that.
    :p

    Ah!!!the joy of native Englisheness...it makes all the difference.:)
    Thank you for this piece mamma...I must get on with with more styles...I 'll get there eventually.:redface:
     
  15. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    Well I don't know because if it waled slow instead of fast it might not weld enough with "theese and those."
    I would try welding "these" and "them" together first in a story to see how that molds.
     

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