Read books by AWers!

 

Welcome to the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler! Please read The Newbie Guide To Absolute Write

Results 1 to 14 of 14

Thread: A Simple Way to Create Suspense (article)

  1. #1

    A Simple Way to Create Suspense (article)

    I thought this was an interesting read. The author says the best way to create suspense or drive your narrative is not by worrying about the ingredients of your story, but by asking questions and then delaying the answer. Thoughts?

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com...e/?ref=opinion

  2. #2
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Scotland
    Posts
    13,885
    For an article intended to show how to create suspense and hold a reader's attention I found it dreadfully boring (ETA even though I see it was written by Lee Child) and I stopped reading long before the end.
    Last edited by Bufty; 12-10-2012 at 07:12 PM.
    Everything yields to treatment.

  3. #3
    Super Procrastinator Kallithrix's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    3,955
    Quote Originally Posted by Bufty View Post
    For an article intended to show how to create suspense and hold a reader's attention I found it dreadfully boring and I stopped reading long before the end.
    Oh god, me too. Added a certain irony to the smug comment about how he was creating suspense in the article. At the 'and you're still reading' part I instantly said 'not anymore I aint, bud' and closed the window.

    And this technique can fall flat for other reasons too. I recently betaed a friends chapter 1, and the first line raised a very definite question that needed an answer. 1300 words later, it still hadn't been answered, and was starting to require more than a little author subterfuge and sleight of hand to avoid answering it. The eventual revelation was anti climactic. Therefore instead of suspense, what she had created was false tension that quickly resulted in the readers' frustration and annoyance.

    Suspense is fine, but the payoff has to be in proportion to the pain and duration of the wait.
    "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."






  4. #4
    I got it covered Undercover's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Not here, but there
    Posts
    9,148
    Two many analogies like baking a cake or a movie or something, simple way is to keep the reader hanging till the end.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Kallithrix View Post
    Oh god, me too. Added a certain irony to the smug comment about how he was creating suspense in the article. At the 'and you're still reading' part I instantly said 'not anymore I aint, bud' and closed the window.

    And this technique can fall flat for other reasons too. I recently betaed a friends chapter 1, and the first line raised a very definite question that needed an answer. 1300 words later, it still hadn't been answered, and was starting to require more than a little author subterfuge and sleight of hand to avoid answering it. The eventual revelation was anti climactic. Therefore instead of suspense, what she had created was false tension that quickly resulted in the readers' frustration and annoyance.

    Suspense is fine, but the payoff has to be in proportion to the pain and duration of the wait.
    I agree--I think like anything in writing it can be done well or not so well. Like you said, when the author has to go out of their way to hide information from the reader just to keep the "suspense" going, it's just annoying.

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW Billycourty's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Paris
    Posts
    368
    Boring or not, the comment about the remote was awesome. I never knew that!

  7. #7
    resident curmudgeon
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    27,819
    A common and effective technique.

  8. #8
    Reinventing Myself Scribhneoir's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    1,112
    Quote Originally Posted by Billycourty View Post
    Boring or not, the comment about the remote was awesome. I never knew that!
    Hmm. When he posed the question, I assumed the answer was "VCR." I know my family's TV had a remote long before 1980. By 1990 we had too many remotes ...

  9. #9
    Why so serious? writeontime's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    208
    I read the article the other day and got momentarily stuck on pondering the comparison between baking a cake and writing suspense.

    Still, it was interesting to read his approach on it.

    Other than that, I have to confess that when it comes to reading or viewing suspense/thrillers, I'm a terrible example. I tend to read the first chapter and then skip to the end to discover who's the perpetrator. Similarly with films and the current Danish noir series The Killing - I have to read the spoilers before I can actually settle down to watch it (The Killing) in peace.
    “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
    - Ernest Hemingway


  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW Billycourty's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Paris
    Posts
    368
    Quote Originally Posted by Scribhneoir View Post
    Hmm. When he posed the question, I assumed the answer was "VCR." I know my family's TV had a remote long before 1980. By 1990 we had too many remotes ...
    Tee hee, honestly I have no idea when telecomands were invented. My family lived in a cave, then a tin shed so you know, tech is tech. However, I still found the comment funny because it would had occured. And I never thought of that!

  11. #11
    Reinventing Myself Scribhneoir's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    1,112
    Quote Originally Posted by Billycourty View Post
    Tee hee, honestly I have no idea when telecomands were invented.
    Zenith's first wireless TV remote control went into production in 1956.

    When I was a kid, my dog could change channels by scratching and jingling the tags on his collar. The jingling tags hit just the right frequency and we'd suddenly be treated to a quick sampling of every channel on the spectrum until the dog's itch was relieved.

  12. #12
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    In the land of cheese and chocolate
    Posts
    9,341
    Quote Originally Posted by Scribhneoir View Post
    Zenith's first wireless TV remote control went into production in 1956.
    Actually, it was not their first wireless remote. It was their second. The first one used used photocells and a flashlight.

    I'm fascinated that wireless remotes were around that early. We never had one at our house when I was growing up, though we did have a black-and-white Zenith.

  13. #13
    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    With my cats
    Posts
    8,089

    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by Mrs. de Winter View Post
    I thought this was an interesting read. The author says the best way to create suspense or drive your narrative is not by worrying about the ingredients of your story, but by asking questions and then delaying the answer. Thoughts?

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com...e/?ref=opinion
    What a great article!
    Susan

    Please visit my website: http://www.susanlittlefield.blogspot.com/


  14. #14
    Warthog, skin is already thick. boozysassmouth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Not where I want to be.
    Posts
    76
    Quote Originally Posted by Scribhneoir View Post
    When I was a kid, my dog could change channels by scratching and jingling the tags on his collar. The jingling tags hit just the right frequency and we'd suddenly be treated to a quick sampling of every channel on the spectrum until the dog's itch was relieved.
    That is kind of awesome, and must have been highly entertaining. Though I suppose after awhile it was more annoying than anything else.

    As for the article. I like the simplicity of the idea, and I think it's something to keep in mind, especially when I'm struggling to create suspense. But like some other people commented, I couldn't get through it. The third time he paused and said "notice that I what I did there", I just had to leave. But then, I don't care for Child's fiction either.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Custom Search