How to Enhance Suspense

Often I am asked how authors can generate more suspense in a novel. The answer is simple…although it seems counterintuitive.

The best way is to slow down. That is, slow the pace of events in the section where suspense is needed. Focus on the details of what the protagonist sees, hears, smells and touches. Describe the setting in ways that enhance the tension or ominous tone. Bring in details one by one, and give each detail room to breathe on the page.

Why does this work? Imagine a film. You don’t get to see the monster right off the bat. The protagonist walks down a dark alley and hears a bottle clanging across the sidewalk but can’t see through the darkness to what threat might wait ahead. Utilize the same darkness by drawing out details leading into the big confrontation, and you’ll enhance suspense in your writing.


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