Friday, November 8, 2019

Concrete Tips for Adding Tension, Suspense, and Intrigue to Any Story

by Jodie Renner, editor & author  

(For the rest of this article, go to my GUEST BLOG POST up at Janice Hardy's FICTION UNIVERSITY today:  

SPARK UP YOUR STORY – A Workable Plan for Adding Tension, Suspense, & Intrigue

We all know that thrillers and other fast-paced popular fiction need lots of tension, suspense, and intrigue to keep readers riveted to the story. But so do all the other genres, to varying degrees. No matter what type of fiction you write, it’s all about hooking your readers in, engaging them emotionally, and keeping their interest to the end.

Tension, conflict, and complications are what drive all fiction forward and keep readers engrossed.

A happy scene is a boring scene. If the character has no cares or the problem is minor or easily solved, readers will lose interest and look for another book. And intrigue is what piques readers’ curiosity and keeps them turning the pages of your story, no matter what the genre. And of course, you’ll need to ratchet up the tension and suspense a lot more if you’re writing a fast-paced, nail-biting page-turner. Go through your manuscript with the list below to see if there are some ways you and amp up your story to make it more engaging.

A. Some “big-picture” techniques for adding suspense, tension, and intrigue:

First, make your readers care about your protagonist by creating a likeable, appealing, strong, smart, and resourceful—but vulnerable—character, with some inner conflict, regrets, and secrets. If readers haven’t bonded with your character, they won’t care what happens to him.

Put your character in motion right away. Don’t start with a description of the setting or philosophical musings or your protagonist getting up or on the way somewhere. Open your story with your main character in an active scene with others, with some worry, discord, and tension.

Get up close and personal. Use deep point of view (first-person or close third person) to get us into the mind, body, and emotions of your main character right away. This makes readers care about the character and worry about her. A worried reader is an engaged reader.

Challenge your protagonist. Now that your readers care about your main character, insert a major threat, challenge, or dilemma within the first chapter or two that won’t be resolved until the end. Create an over-riding sentence about this to keep in mind as you’re writing your story:

“Will (name) survive/stop/find/overcome (ordeal/person/difficulty/threat) on time?”

For the rest of this article, go to my guest blog post up at Fiction University today. See you over there!

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Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: FIRE UP YOUR FICTION,  CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS, and WRITING A KILLER THRILLER, as well as two clickable time-saving e-resources, QUICK CLICKS: Spelling List and QUICK CLICKS: Word Usage. She has also organized two anthologies for charity: VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS – Stories and Poems about Life in BC’s Interior, and CHILDHOOD REGAINED – Stories of Hope for Asian Child Workers. You can find Jodie on her Amazon Author Page, at, and on Facebook.