Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Creating Suspense In Short Stories


Hard to believe I’m published now.  Part of me feels like I can’t really call myself published since its just a short story and its an anthology that all the proceeds for go towards a great charity.  I’m torn.  Regardless it’s a great feeling to be able to pick up my copy flip it open to the contents page and see my short story and name printed in there.

As part of our promotion of the book, I’ve been asked to write my tips and such about how to create suspense in a short story.  I don’t consider myself an expert but I can tell you about the things I think about when I’m trying to write.

Writing suspense can be tough in any genre.  Figuring out how to keep the reader turning pages is a skill that I constantly work on.  Some genres lend to developing suspense easier than others, but there are some things that can help.

When I started writing SEED and Soul, I wanted to convey a sense of desperation and a bit of urgency to the reader.  Writing the story in a First Person Present perspective helped to give the story that impact.  When you write in a past tense the reader assumes that whatever has happened the main character of the story survives and the story has worked out one way or another.  In a sense the reader assumes that they are hearing the story after it has happened.  By using present tense I wanted to give the reader a sense of uncertainty in what the outcome would be because the events were unfolding as the story unfolds.

Besides utilizing tense to try to increase suspense, I also told the story from the perspective of a character who isn't what you would consider the protagonist.  He isn't a good guy, at least not at the beginning of the story.  He is portrayed as a bad guy, a serial killer.  This combined with the use of present tense makes the reader wonder if he'll get away with it.  It adds a sense of uncertainty to the story.  As a society we want the good guys to win, we hate to see injustice.  This uncertainty helps fuel the suspense because you want to know if justice will be served in the end.

Lastly I used a sense of immediacy.  The urgency imposed by the main character.  After years of meticulous planning, he is ready to execute his plans.  He is ready to 'save' the woman he loves and he isn't willing to wait any longer.  He has to accomplish his goals that night.  The immediacy of his actions propels the story at a faster pace and drags the reader along with it as they are fed little bits of back story and plot that reveals more and more about who this man is.

And there you have it.  How I created suspense in my short story, SEED and Soul.

You can find Secrets & Doors at:

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