Sometimes I pick up a book and after a couple of pages, I toss it aside. It failed to keep my interest. Other times, I can’t seem to put the book down. The author has hooked me. I began to wonder why this was so and I analyzed the writing to see what the successful authors do. Here are my results.
First of all, I found that the best way to increase suspense is to do the unexpected. When you’re plotting your book, think of a solution, then immediately discard it. Why? Because chances are that if you thought of this solution, so did the readers. To keep them guessing, go with your second choice—or even better, think of a third solution and go with that one.
Another device I found authors often use is that whenever possible, they add the element of time. They give their characters some type of a deadline. For example, Little Susie has been kidnapped and her father only has 24 hours to find her. As the father desperately watches the clock tick away the time, the readers’ interest increases.
I also found that the most successful books use weather. However, the authors don’t simply say that it’s raining. They show how the rain affects the character and even complicates the plot. The author tends to use weather more as a minor character than an abstract element.
Still another way that successful authors add suspense to their novels is by having the character make a mistake which the reader recognizes as a mistake. For example, sometimes they throw suspicion on someone the main character trusts and whom the reader knows is an evil person.
L. C. Hayden is the creator of the award winning Harry Bronson Thriller Series, the Aimee Brent Mystery Series, and the international best selling nonfiction Miracles and Angels series. Hayden’s latest release is What Lies Beyond the Fence, a Harry Bronson thriller.