Today I am handing the reins over to a fellow writer and all round amazing person – Annie Seaton.
Annie has written over 20 novels, is both traditionally and indie published, and brings a wealth of knowledge about the craft of writing.
Today, she explains a little about creating tension and suspense, and how she used these techniques when writing her latest novel – Kakadu Sunset.
Take it away, Annie!
Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory is comprised of many landscapes which gave me a fabulous opportunity to create compelling and suspenseful scenes in Kakadu Sunset. From Savannah grasslands to sweeping wetlands dotted with silver billabongs, tidal flats, flood plains and plateaus, to the majestic grandeur of the red sandstone escarpments that form the backbone of the national park there were endless opportunities to make use of these wonderful settings to create tension and suspense.
Crocodiles, helicopters, kidnaps and blackmail create a tapestry of ongoing catalysts for each suspenseful scene. So what are the tricks of writing good suspense and keeping the reader on the edge of their seat? And from the reviews of Kakadu Sunset, many readers were up until the wee hours reading the book to see what happened!
Suspense is great fun to write and I have used the following devices to hone my craft:
Keep the stakes high. …
Apply pressure. …
Create dilemmas. …
As she stood there, there was a noise at the front door and Gina’s shoulders sagged with relief as she hurried up the hall. She paused; there was a strange scratching noise coming from the base of the front door. She listened . . . there it was again. It was as though someone was rubbing a rough piece of sandpaper on the timber. She walked over slowly and stood by the door and the strange sound continued. Stepping back, she crossed her arms protectively against her stomach as goose bumps ran down her arms.
Silence. And then another louder scratch. The door handle turned slowly and Gina held her breath as the door opened.
Complicate matters. …
Be unpredictable. …
Create a really, really good villain. Someone who will make your skin crawl.
Mick gave him a cool nod, his eyes cold and empty. He was a tall, good-looking man, with short-cropped blond hair. Mick had worked for him for several years now and was tasked with handling the ‘small’ problems that occasionally plagued his business dealings. Russell didn’t know whether Mick’s cool disregard for human life came from his military experiences, or whether he had genuine psychopathic tendencies, but he had proved a loyal employee, and followed orders without asking questions. Personality wasn’t a prerequisite.
One of the best ways to create tension is by sentence construction. Short sentences, can build tension. The sharp rhythm can create feeling of urgency:
Thirty feet to go. Enough to kill you dropping from that height. At least there was no fuel to burn.
One of my favourite techniques is the use of a false climax…but I won’t give too much away because it will spoil the story for you!
Thanks so much for that Annie!!
Annie’s latest novel, Kakadu Sunset, is now available from the following e-tailers and from all good Australian and New Zealand Book stores, including Dymocks, Collins, Big W and Target