What is Suspense? Definition & Examples in Literature

what is a suspense

That desire multiplies when we feel the weight of what’s at stake. During a recent visit with my sister, she brought up a memory from some of my first writing attempts that had us in stitches. I was reading by age four and some of my first favorites were Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew.

  1. A payoff acts as a resolution whether or not it is good or bad for a character.
  2. Consider this chart that breaks down these different genres and how the same elements are used differently.
  3. This creates suspense for readers and members of the audience, encouraging them to continue reading and watching, as they are eager to know if Othello gets out of Iago’s trap or not.
  4. And that suspense is what keeps us invested in a story, reading to find out what happens.

Case in Point: Story Openings

Every time we watch your character come into direct or indirect contact with their vice, the reader will feel the suspense of them fighting against their desire to indulge. Pacing in narrative works much the same way as pacing in music; short, fast beats will accelerate the heart rate and give the rhythm a sense of urgency. You can use this to build suspense and grab hold of your reader’s emotions. Now think about the last novel you cast aside as a DNF (Did Not Finish). Even if it was in your favorite genre, you probably stopped reading because you didn’t care what happened to the characters in the story—in other words, the story lacked suspense.

what is a suspense

Showcase your vision with elegant shot lists and storyboards.

This moment sets up one of the best plot twists of the last decade. In this video, we break down how Bong Joon-ho sets up the suspense with this moment. Add suspense to one of your lists below, or create a new one. Enter your email to get our free interactive checklist to writing and publishing a book.

Further reading

These surprises pack a punch, keeping us involved with what’s happening on the page and wanting to know more. For example, story openings often present questions to the reader’s mind, but since the story’s just begun, there’s not much the reader can yet anticipate. Curiosity generates questions, but without the accompanying pieces of information that allow a reader to predict and anticipate, it doesn’t rise to the level of suspense. Suspense is what motivates the reader to keep turning pages as they anticipate story events.

Create uncertainty

Next we’ll look at some suspense examples in literature and ways you can enhance the suspense in your own writing. Readers aren’t the only ones open to surprise in a book. Sometimes we surprise ourselves with twists we didn’t see at the outset. If we knew it was coming, we’d be prepared, but it strikes suddenly and shocks us with unforeseen violence. But if you’re writing a mystery, thriller, or other type of suspense novel, you’ll need to raise the bar.

In real life, that’s how we want it—disaster averted. In the fiction we consume, it’s the other way around. We demand the disaster and we delight in being able to anticipate it.

The girl imagines she will end up in big trouble with mom. She anticipates the disaster, and her ability to do this averts it. who goes to prison for tax evasion We all want to see what happens in the end, and with a well-constructed story, we hang on with both hands until we see it.

We’ll look at more examples of narrative suspense below. At any time, Edward’s blood hunger could drive him to kill Bella. This leaves him in a constant state of anxiety over the danger. While a sadistic vampire, James, draws towards Bella, hunting her down, Edward and his other family members defend her.

And yet, it’s not fear that drives us to keep turning pages long after midnight, but suspense—the heart-pounding tension between one unexpected moment and another. We enjoy that kind of suspense in our fiction partly because it’s cathartic. We are willing to endure through some discomfort because we’ve learned that we can expect certain benefits—a pleasurable rise in heartbeat, an adrenaline rush, maybe even euphoria. We get a workout for the mind, and a reinforcement of values we hold dear, such as life, liberty, and justice.

Looking for protection, Bella leaves for Phoenix, Arizona, but James tricks her, and tries to murder her. Knowing what might happen down the road will help you set it up for your reader. In Suspense Thriller, Paul Tomlinson points out that the chase and escape scenes break even point calculator bep calculator online provide the same kind of thrill we got as kids from playing a game of tag or hide and seek. And clandestine, secret actions are intrinsically exciting. Let’s say a couple is dining in a restaurant and a bomb suddenly explodes with no warning—that’s surprise.