Friday, January 7, 2011

Holding Back Information for Suspense

I wrote out my love story. It's a true story. And I'm in it.

I decided to write it down because there are details I'm forgetting. Through writing it, I've been able to relive it, which is one of the best parts! (Who doesn't love falling in love all over again?) The story takes place over time, so early on I realized I would need to write a series.

I didn't know how long it would be, what I would include, or when it would end (First kiss? Engagement? Wedding day? Ever?). I just knew I had to keep writing.

Through it all, I've become addicted to suspense. With each portion I always try to end with something that will keep the reader coming back for more. That wasn't my intention, to gain readers or what-not. But the suspense has kept my family and friends on the edge of their seats and ME at the edge of the keyboard, hardly able to contain the next installment within my fingers.

What is it about suspense that we love so much?

The waiting, the wanting, the longing... we are impatient! We are busy! We want to know now. Suspense forces us to wait. It's a love-hate thing. We are so consumed with the story, that when it suddenly stops we throw up our hands and say "No! Not yet!"

Like on a recent episode of Castle when Ric realizes the killer isn't actually dead-- he runs to Kate's apartment and BOOM! It explodes before our eyes. Is she ok? Oh no! Then.... come the credits.


I was so mad, being forced to wait another week to find out what happened. But at the same time, I loved it. Scenarios ran through my mind, and for the most part I knew Kate was ok. But there is that 1-2% of you that isn't sure. Maybe she's severely injured, or maybe Kate is about to die but Castle goes up and rescues her. There are a million possibilities. How it really happens, that is what we are waiting for.

Growing up, when we would watch movies as a family my dad could ALWAYS predict the end. It was so maddening! Don't tell us, dag nabbit! He was always right. At first I couldn't understand how he did it.

But lately I find myself doing the same thing. Really, most plots are fairly obvious. There are many ways it could go, but we all know which route will lead to maximum impact. Sure, some stories take twists and turns we don't expect. But for the most part, when I watch a movie or read a book, I know how it will end.

Regardless, I read or watch it anyway. I hunger for the story, especially for the suspense. A chapter ends and leaves me hanging for a few pages, and I almost race forward to see how it is resolved!

If you are a writer, I implore you to use suspense more in your writing.

Hold back a little information. Reveal bits and pieces here and there, but don't tell the reader EVERYTHING. Keep them guessing. Give them enough to think, "What does that mean? Is the author telling me something?" Whet their appetite.

In the case of my love story, we all know how it will end (duh, it's about me and my husband. We got married!) So I have to build suspense for it to be interesting. Here are some examples:

* * *

We laughed. She was embarrassed. But laughed some more. I liked this girl, crazy as she was. Tori would become one of my best friends ever, helping me survive my time in a new town. And as it turned out, Tori would become instrumental in leading me and Jon to the marriage alter. (to be continued)

* * *

Much to my happiness, he finally came to a stop, and my body peeled itself off the contraption. I literally fell to the ground, maybe even kissing the snow, except the ground was probably still spinning. I vowed to never, ever ride on a snowmobile with him again. To this day I can say I have upheld that vow.

But within a few weeks, Jon would muster up the courage and I would actually agree to ride with him... in his car.... on a date. (to be continued)

* * *

At some point I thought for sure Jon would jump right out of his seat. He was beaming, and fidgity. Once I was done eating and they took my plate away, I rested my hands on the table. Somehow Jon thought it was ok to rest his hands on mine.

"We're not dating." I scolded him.

"Oh! Sorry!" He was grinning from ear to ear.

It was like he knew something I didn't.

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