keeping suspense

Question: First of all, I want to compliment you on this wonderfully helpful site it's just great!

I'm writing a scene where my group of heroes are attempting a rescue from a highly guarded building.
From what I have observed while reading other books, there are two ways to make that kind of "mission" scene interesting.
a) by not telling the reader what the plan is and having them find out as it happens
or b)by having something go unexpectedly wrong
Is there some other way of making the scene suspenseful? I would like to just have everything happen as planned, but that might be too boring. But I also need the reader to know about the plan beforehand, because I want to show one Characters skill at strategy.
Do you have any ideas?

Answer: One technique for creating suspense is to hide the drivers. Generally, each of the four acts in a story begins and ends with a key event or turning point - a driver. That makes a total of five drivers altogether.

What happens in suspense stories is that the writer hides some of the early drivers, so that we see characters reacting to them, but we don't know what's going on, what they are reacting to. The desire to find out compels the reader to keep reading.

Another technique, often used in murder mysteries, is to hide the impact character's throughline for much of the story. For instance, you may have the murderer doing things, and the results turn up (dead bodies) but you don't know why he's doing it or exactly how. This is similar to what you suggested above, so long as the plan that is hidden is not the main character's.

You can use this same technique in a thriller, where mysterious things happen, but only at the end does the reader find out the connections between them or the intention behind them.

A third technique is to generate suspense with a series of forewarnings. If the reader can see signs that disaster is approaching, unbeknownst to the good guys, his anxiety will increase. For instance, imagine a film where cut back and forth between 1) some innocent people having a relaxed picnic on a train track and 2) a runaway locomotive around the hill, heading straight for them.

Comments for keeping suspense

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May 03, 2013

by: Belle

Thanks, I'll try that!

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