They say that the essence of good drama is conflict, but you can also attest this to suspense. By keeping your reader guessing, you keep them reading.
Here are some ways to amp up the suspense:
Try to appeal to reader’s sense of dread. Readers like to feel what characters feel and will empathise with a character that is confronted by their fear of heights, or who feels they are being followed in the dead of night. Think of the things that frighten you most and you can be sure many of your readers will fear them as well.
Let the readers know information before the characters do, allow them to tie the information together and let the drama unfold. Once you give your character the information, the reader will recognise the foreshadowing and the anticipation will build.
Countdowns and deadlines can be helpful, but can work against you if they don’t feed the story’s escalation. For example, having every chapter of your book start one hour closer to the climax is a gimmick that gets old after a while because it’s repetitive and predictable—two things that kill escalation. Instead, start your countdown in the middle of the book. To escalate a countdown, shorten the time available to solve the problem.
As you build toward the climax, isolate your main character. Remove his tools, escape routes and support system (buddies, mentors, helpers or defenders). This forces him to become self-reliant and makes it easier for you to put him at a disadvantage in his final confrontation with evil.
Make it Personal
By making the stakes higher, by involving a friend, family member or loved one, you create tension for the character and for the invested reader.
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