Wait for it…
Waaaaaait foooooor iiiiit…
I decided to talk a little about suspense today because the reviews of FEVER, my debut novel, have highlighted my use of suspense in creating a read that many say they couldn’t put down.
“I was engaged from the first page and [FEVER] never let me go until it ended.” ~Kendra
“FEVER takes hold of you in the first couple of sentences and will not let you go.” Didi, Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews
“Joan Swan's debut romantic-suspense novel, FEVER, is a thrill ride you won't want to miss!” ~Grace
Every story—no matter the length, the genre, the style, the voice, the author, the editor, the language—has to have suspense. Without suspense, there is nothing urging the reader to turn the page. No drama for the reader to watch unfold. Nothing to take hold of the reader and not let go. In other words… boring.
The whole point to suspense is development of drama within the story. And to create suspenseful drama a storyteller must have:
- Stakes—what will the character win or lose? Is it big enough to make the situation compelling?
- Character—do I connect enough with this person to care whether they win or lose?
- Conflict—one main character must want one thing while another wants something different – usually the opposite.
The best authors use these elements in a delicate balance.
Suspense is all about the anticipation. The unknown. In fiction, suspense is built when the author proposes a story or character question, then makes the reader wait for the answer.
How long? It depends…usually on the question itself. Some questions are big and meaningful to the overall story concept. Some are small, maybe a hint about the character’s background that will foreshadow conflict. But regardless of the size (or relative importance) in the most suspenseful fiction, every time an answer is revealed to the reader, another question continues to linger or is introduced. Like that childhood game leapfrog, some question the reader needs answered to understand the story, to satisfy his curiosity, to make him want to read forward, is always in place. This is what creates that need-to-know atmosphere in the best suspense. And when it’s done well, the story skips along, with answers coming at intervals and new questions popping up, keeping the reader flying through the pages.
Timing is everything—when an author drops a new question into the story, when he answers another. It’s a skill that can be developed on a gut level. A sixth sense of sorts. Some authors have developed this sense after years of writing in the genre. Some authors come by it naturally. Many readers have an even better sense of developing tension than authors because reading is a fabulous way of gaining that sensitivity.
Generally speaking, if you, as the author, are bored...the reader will be bored. If your attention is scattered between three different story lines...the reader will also be distracted. And if you allow the suspense to linger too long, the reader will get exasperated and put the book down, but if you push it too fast, the reader has nothing to read on or wait for. Here, the gut feeling is valuable.
Some authors find it easier to write through method. In that case, this graphic might help.
Add in character questions and you get even more complexity and more levels of suspense.
There are different types of suspense a writer can employ to keep the pace moving in creative, thought-provoking ways: the dark, slowly-twining-around-your-throat suspense, the emotional, life-altering-squeezing-your-stomach suspense, and the well-known and loved physical-threat-to life-and-limb suspense. And because I write romantic suspense, I'm also twining in the romantic conflict along the way.
It's fun and challenging and when it all comes together, the result is literally breathtaking.
What was the last book you couldn’t put down? Why? Do you recognize this pattern in that story?
Book Blurb: Release Date: 2/28
Dr. Alyssa Foster will admit to a bad boy fetish…
But when she finds herself face to face with a convicted murderer with determination for freedom and an eye on her as his get out of jail free card, Alyssa knows she’s in deep trouble…. Not just because Teague Creek is a prisoner desperate for freedom, but because his every touch makes her desperate for more.
A man with a life sentence has nothing to lose…
Teague Creek has one shot at freedom, but his plan to escape with a hostage develops a fatal flaw: Alyssa. On the run from both the law and deadly undercover operatives who know of his strange abilities, he needs to avoid trouble, but every heated kiss tells him the fire between them could be just as devastating as the flames that changed him forever.
Joan Swan is a triple RWA® Golden Heart finalist and writes sexy romantic suspense with a paranormal twist. Her debut novel with Kensington Brava, FEVER, releases February 28, 2012. Her second novel, BLAZE, follows in October, 2012.
In her day job, she works as a sonographer for one of the top ten medical facilities in the nation and lives on the California central coast in beautiful wine country with her husband and two daughters.
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Giveaway:· A print copy of FEVER, US/Canada shipping.
To enter for a copy of FEVER just leave a comment below telling us...
What was the last book you couldn’t put down? Why? Do you recognize this pattern in that story?You must be 18 or older. Giveaway Ends March 6th.
· All comments are eligible for tour grand prize of either a COLOR NOOK or KINDLE FIRE. Enter: http://joanswan.com/giveaways/