Writing 101: How to Create Suspense in 5 Exciting Steps


These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in oureditorial policy. A general ledger is where a business records its assets and liabilities on an ongoing basis, broken into separate categories or accounts. Suspense accounts are used for assets or liabilities that require further clarification before they can be assigned a permanent place in the ledger.

A how to pitch a business idea in 2021 account is an account used to temporarily store transactions for which there is uncertainty about where they should be recorded. Once the accounting staff investigates and clarifies the purpose of this type of transaction, it shifts the transaction out of the suspense account and into the correct account. An entry into a suspense account may be a debit or a credit. A mortgage servicer can use a suspense account to hold funds when a borrower falls short on their required monthly loan repayment, possibly by accident. In all cases, suspense accounts are intended to be temporary. This technique only works if you’ve gotten readers to really care about your characters, so wait to deploy it until the end of your narrative.

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I laid out some possible outcomes for my readers and let them predict what would happen, replacing surprise with suspense. A good story raises questions in the reader’s mind. The big, overarching question won’t get answered until the climactic scene, but intermediate questions carry the story along on a wave of curiosity. Every type of story—not just mysteries and thrillers—must incorporate suspense if it is to sustain a reader’s progress. Suspense is what drives the reader forward, devouring sentence and paragraph to reach the resolution. It’s also very clear when a story is a suspense story because of this tension.

Suspense in Movies

In other words, we care about whether Llewelyn can escape with his life. Suspense cannot be created by throwing the audience directly into chaos or turmoil. The chaos has to develop in order for the suspense to grow. A key part of executing this is by establishing stability followed by instability.

examples in literature

Also make sure the threat is realistic, and has been creeping in on the characters the whole time, whether they realize it or not. For instance, maybe early on your character loses their house key, so a neighbor lets them in. For instance, if your main character has a problem with addiction, the reader knows that they’ll be constantly on the precipice of succumbing to this weakness. Every time we watch your character come into direct or indirect contact with their vice, the reader will feel the suspense of them fighting against their desire to indulge.


Heather unlocks and opens the door, and the video flashes and ends, an editing decision to build suspense about who was there. The suspense derives in part from the pulse-pounding exertions of Mark Mothersbaugh’s score, and also from the characters’ assumption that black bears are less dangerous than brown bears and always sober. He has taught various film courses to students from 7th grade to undergraduates. In this dream sequence, Rachel takes a drink of water and starts coughing immediately.

  • The manipulation of time and the delay of events is the definition of suspense.
  • In horror movies, have you ever noticed the music when the protagonist is creeping around corners on the lookout for the killer?
  • We demand the disaster and we delight in being able to anticipate it.
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Nevertheless, keep in mind that mystery deals with the lack of information or information that has not yet been revealed that is usually equally unbeknownst to the reader and the characters. At the same time, suspense usually exposes just enough information to the reader to evoke an emotional response to a situation unknown to the character. Suspense is what motivates the reader to keep turning pages as they anticipate story events. But if you’re writing a mystery, thriller, or other suspense novel, you’ll need to raise the bar. Both suspense accounts and clearing accounts are used to temporarily record transactions, until they can be permanently assigned. Suspense accounts, however, are more typically used when there is some question about the transaction that needs to be resolved.

Further reading

In investing, suspense accounts are used by brokerage firms to hold clients’ money until it can be reinvested. Placing your characters in a dangerous situation is the ultimate recipe for sudden suspense (remember Stephen King’s method in Misery). It’s especially helpful when you’re approaching the climactic point of your mysterious suspense arc, and need to escalate it with some short-term horrific suspense. No matter how you use flashbacks, however, they need to mean something in the story. You can include a red herring as part of flashback, but the whole thing can’t just be a diversion, or your reader will feel betrayed. That goes for content as well as tone — flashbacks should read as vividly and intriguingly as the present-day narrative, and shouldn’t feel like a distraction, but an augmentation to the plot.

sound design

Let’s look at a scene fromThe Birds, courtesy of Alfred Hitchcock — the master of suspense. And that suspense is what keeps us invested in a story, reading to find out what happens. As you write your own stories, remember to give your characters—and your reader—something to worry about, something to anticipate. Attach high stakes to the outcome, and you’ve got suspense.

Building suspense with film technique

Subtly reference a piece of your suspense arc as early as possible. Then make them anticipate each individual ingredient, agonizingly building to the final product. The classic cliffhanger involves putting the characters in danger; for example, showing your characters caught in a devastating avalanche. If the reader puts down your book now, they’ll never know. When done effectively, suspense is one of the most potent ways to engage an audience.

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And Then There Were None, for example, seamlessly intertwines mysterious and horrific suspense throughout its arc, making the reader question both “whodunnit? Having more than one arc of narrative suspense keeps the reader invested and gives the story added layers of depth. You can also accomplish these goals by using short-term suspense, which we’ll discuss in our next section. While suspense is most frequently employed in mysteries and thrillers, it should be present in every work of fiction — curiosity is what compels readers to finish your book! However, the amount and type of suspense you use depends on exactly what you want your reader to experience.

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We’ve seen that suspense is all about anticipation, making your reader look forward to projected events with some kind of emotion—pleasure or dread. A sense of identification with the people, principally the hero, and events in the story which will make the reader feel more heroic. In your own work, you’ll want to provide both surprise and suspense for your reader. But use the surprises sparingly, as too many will dilute their effect.


In a thriller, you’ll need to make sure your reader knows what kind of disaster your protagonist is racing to prevent and the consequences that will rock their world if they fail. We see the pieces moving and predict that Kimble will find the one-armed man and prove his own innocence. This is the outcome we anticipate and we will watch with rapt attention to see how the pieces interact and if we guessed correctly. Give your reader all the necessary bits of information and let them fit the pieces together herself, and you’ve made them an active participant in the story, inherently more invested.

  • For instance, maybe early on your character loses their house key, so a neighbor lets them in.
  • I still remember the sweet relief of entering the cool, dim foyer and the smell of old paper and library paste.
  • She ends up pulling a long string attached to an electrode out of her mouth.
  • Suspense depends on your reader’s ability to make predictions based on the clues and information you provide for them.
  • In the business world generally, a suspense account is a section of a company’s financial books where it can record ambiguous entries that need further analysis to determine their proper classification.

The best way to create suspense is to reveal sensory details piece-by-piece and support this by adding elements of mystery and surprise. Timeless master of suspense to get more examples and a better understanding include Edgar Allan Poe and Alfred Hitchcock. The definition of suspense in literature is the tension that keeps our attention between one moment and another.

The https://bookkeeping-reviews.com/ “suspenseful” is commonly used to describe examples of various movie genres like mystery, horror, even action. But all too often, suspense is mistakenly attributed to works of mystery or shock. Here are few things that can keep an audience more engaged in a film than suspense.