12. Telling a story that matters with that sweet, sweet suspense

Writing for an audience is intimidating, isn’t it? Every word you write will be analyzed, judged, and possibly forgotten. And it’s so much different than television or radio. Sure, the writing is important regardless of the medium, but if you’re writing a book, you don’t have the option of having some gorgeous supermodel read it to your audience for them. You can inject a heavy dose of special effects into your action scenes. It’s all about your reader, their imagination, and their commitment to your words. 

So in order to make up for the lack of possibilities that other mediums exploit, writers must focus all of their creative energy on one thing: telling a story their readers will care about.

That’s right. You’re readers need to care about the words you’re shoving into their eyeballs. They need to be drawn in, used, insulted. Something needs to hold their interest, and it certainly won’t be Megan Fox’s cleavage or John Madden’s terrible, terrible voice. 

You’re on your own. It’s just you and your story, and together, you must give readers a reason to keep flipping through the pages. There are a lot of ways to do this, but at the heart of each is the universal fascination with suspense

So how do you use suspense? What makes suspense such a valuable writing tool?

People want to be toyed with. They don’t want the facets of a story handed to them on a blunt, straight-to-the-point platter. Readers want to be seduced. I read somewhere a while back that writing is like foreplay. There’s a buildup of suspense, a climax, and maybe some cuddling to wrap everything up. So use this in your writing. Caress your audience’s imagination, making them jump to the wrong conclusions, and when you’re finally ready to blow your story open, the built up suspense will make it worth their while. 

Hold back some important information and make the reader want to figure it all out. Sure, you’ll have to give them something to chew on, but save the main course until later. 

Write on, 432.


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