Keep the pages turning

While we may be writing (mostly) for ourselves, suspense fiction is met with expectation on the part of the reader. Most readers are unaware of the underpinnings, but the writer is acutely conscious that the pages MUST turn, or all is lost. Here are some ways to keep the reader engaged. It’s not a cliff-hanger unless there is a cliff.


OFF BALANCE — Start some of your scenes with a little twist so that the characters are already off balance from the beginning. This engages the reader, and — if you do it well — puts her/him in a state of pleasant anxiety and anticipation. Maybe that’s one of the elements of reading that people enjoy most, is that anxiety. Keep the main character off balance through much of the scene.

RACHET UP THE PERIL AND CONSEQUENCES — See if you can increase the level of reader anxiety as the story unfolds by deepening the challenges your main character must face. A steeper cliff, a longer way to fall, the prospect that when the main character falls, another sympathetic character will be dislodged and fall also — you get the idea.

USE DIALOG — If you spot long passages of prose in your suspense fiction, get in there and fix it! See blog post “‘WE NEED TO TALK’, HE SAID” . Be sure to reveal character and details through dialog (this is part of show, don’t tell).

MOMENTUM — End most scenes with movement into whatever will come next. This drives the story forward, and the reader is swept along.

BRAIDED PLOT — Mix up the story lines to make a braided plot, so that there are multiple interesting stories going on at one time, and the characters intersect in both predictable and surprising ways. Thus, a scene that ended as a cliff hanger might be interrupted by “Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . .”

CLUES SPRINKLED FROM PAGE 1 — The reader proceeds along intersecting paths, doesn’t dare to skip one of the secondary plots because there are clues about the main character and the main plot contained within those.

Hey! Try a few of these ideas and see if they work for you.

Manna is everywhere!

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