Flake-out Friday–“S” is for Suspense

Creating suspense can be a challenging thing.

Here’s a link of Alfred Hitchcock describing his take on mystery versus suspense at an AFI Seminar in 1970. (YouTube won’t let me embed it).

Here’s an example of how a cat works the suspense angle. Basically, there’s a slow build up and then the BAM! ending. All important elements of suspense.

Can’t you just feel the suspense here? Oh, what’s gonna happen????

funny pictures - There's nothing to be scared of. There's nothing to be scared of. There's nothing to be scared of. There's nothing to be scared of.

How do you create suspense in your writing?


20 comments on “Flake-out Friday–“S” is for Suspense

  1. Vixter2010 says:

    Hehe love the pics!

  2. kendallgrey says:

    Okay, the cat on top of the cupboards peering down TOTALLY ROCKS! Hahaha!

    Umm…suspense in writing? I think creating powerful ending hooks helps. I learned more about this during Editpalooza at SavvyAuthors.com. Basic idea is to end every scene with disaster. Not necessarily *literal* disaster, but something bad that leaves the reader hanging/wondering/oh crap!-ing for more.

  3. Ciara Knight says:

    Love the pics! 🙂 I think having GMCD in each scene is so important to help with suspense.

  4. Karen Lange says:

    These pictures are great, what good suspense potential! Thanks for the links. Have a great weekend! 🙂

  5. Love cats! The last pic (with orange tabby) reminds me of my Kozmo. He was a hoot!

    Much like kendallgrey, I try to end each chapter on a cliffhanger and try to make sure each scene complicates (or compounds) the problem in the previous chapter. I also try to make sure I resolve smaller issues to earn/keep my readers trust in my ability to resolve the overall conflict/problem for my MC.

  6. Every scene, in some way or the other must have suspense.

    I like the slooow buildup and then WHAMMY. That’s the challenge for writers. That’s what our readers want. Great post, as usual, Laura. Love the pics. I’ll go watch what Alfred says. He was the master.


  7. Reece says:

    I really appreciated the Hitchcock clip. Unfortunately, I’ve found suspense is much harder to pull off than you think. My attempts always bore my readers instead of thrilling them. Any suggestions?

  8. Lydia K says:

    WHERE do you get these picts? You always find the perfect ones! So funny. 🙂

  9. Suspense isn’t difficult to spot. I think writers knows when they have created suspense. Timing and words, emotions as expressed or demonstrated in action, the proximity of the danger, the helplessness of the intended victim, all contribute to the rise of suspense in a scene.

    While Hitchcock is right that mystery is not suspense and that information is needed to create suspense, many mystery novels are also suspense novels. Yes, the mystery may be unsolved by the main character until the end, but the reader may be given enough knowledge to know that the main character is in grave danger. Sometimes there is much suspense created when the reader knows that the main character is about to be killed, but the main character blissfully marches into the danger unknowingly. This is suspense and mystery in one novel.

    Blessings to you, Laura…

  10. Jeanne Kraus says:

    These pictures for suspense are just great. What a way to show, not tell! I am on the A-Z checking you out. Have to go back to some of the ones I missed.

  11. Anita Miller says:

    Awesome photos!

    The sad thing is that I try to build suspense, but I can never really tell if I’ve done it, until I type “The End.” Suspense building is a pacing issue, and I think a lot of it is instinctual.

  12. Loved this post. And the Alfred Hitchcock video. Thanks much.

  13. I am currently working very, VERY hard to create suspense in my novel. It’s tough. I got it in the 1st chapter or so but by the middle, I fear I’ve lost it.

    A bit like Anita, I’m not going to be sure until I’ve typed, ‘THE END’

    Great post

    warm wishes

  14. Hmmm. Good question. You’d think I’d have an answer since my novels thrive on suspense.

    It’s partly mood, emotion, tension, the unknown. All of these are vital in creating suspense. 😀

  15. Linda Gray says:

    Oh, that Alfred! He was a pesky one, but sooo talented. Personally, I love the intellectual process of good mysteries, which do have emotion in them, but it’s often the emotion of relationships rather than of impending plot-related disaster, so caring about the characters becomes more important than caring about the plot. Huh, when I started this comment I had no idea I was going to defend mysteries. I do love good suspense novels, too, and think uncertainty, high stakes and conflict (internal and external) are key, and, of course, fascinating characters. Great post, thanks!

  16. Great post and I enjoyed listening to Hitchcock talk about the difference between the two. I write suspense and thrillers so I try to build the suspense with exact pacing. Some chapters the suspense builds extremely slow and the pacing is faster in others so it has a balance. It is all about timing.

    I try to end most chapters with a cliff hanger & with more unresolved issues. Much like in any form of fiction; I work to leave my protagonist in more peril.

    In suspense it is also very important to develop a relationship between the reader and the major characters as early on as possible so that they care about what is happening to the characters. I need for them to feel the terror or apprehension and suspense along side the character. I have also found that the best form of suspense is when the reader is aware of the danger that the character is in long before the character realizes it.

    Great Post

  17. hahaha I love those pics. Great examples of suspence. A great way of creating suspence is to draw out what hasn’t happened yet, and raise the fear of what could happen.

  18. Love the pikkies! I find diving into the moment really helps me. Most of my scenes are “in the moment”, to avoid telling, but I spend a lot more time on (and describe in more detail) particular parts where I want to build suspense.

    Great question!



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