New Theme and the Art of Suspense

Posted: October 27, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

As some of you may have noticed (or not), but I have activated a new theme. It seems to fit the type of blog I’ve got, don’t you think? No? Well.  like it…

Okay, fine! Fine! Sorry. Still won’t change it though.

To the topic at hand, I am talking about the art of suspense. We all know a little bit about suspense. Who hasn’t watched a movie like Die Hard, where you’re constantly in suspense about what is going to happen next? No one, right? Point is, we all know suspense, but how many can claim they know how to use it properly?

I won’t even lie that I can use it. No, that’s too heinous of a crime for me. But here’s a little something for you folks. The art of suspense is leaving the reader/viewer knowing absolutely nothing. It blends well with unreliable narration used often in books like Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. I know what you’re thinking. That is absolutely ridiculous! You liar!

Well, that’s unreliable narration for you. Except, I am not lying this time. Have any of you watched Pulp Fiction? I just watched it earlier today, and the thing that most of you probably liked is the fact that you NEVER knew (spoiler) what was in the briefcase! What was in that briefcase? We know there was probably a lightbulb inside. We know it was very… Surprising. But nothing else! And Quentin Tarantino shows you the reaction of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson near the beginning of the movie, so you watch the rest of the movie in constant suspense. What is in the damn briefcase?!

No idea. And that is the point. You know next to nothing about it, but you do know someone like Marsellus wants it. And it was valuable enough for four guys to steal it. The art of suspense is to never give the reader what they want.

“Tell me if he’s going to die!”

Nope. I won’t.

“Then tell me if the guy chooses the girl next door!”

Never. Not until the end.


That is the point, you know? You start something in suspense, and you FORCE the reader/viewer to get on with everything. It grips them, and by the middle of it, they are HOOKED. They can no longer cease watching or reading or listening. They are screaming at the book or screen for not telling them, but they cannot stop watching! And I think that is something every writer aspires to do. To force the reader to do something they no longer want to do, and then to MAKE them want to do it. Sounds rather weird, but it’s really quite true.

I’ll talk about unreliable narration tomorrow. Hope you people like this post, and tell all of your friends and enemies about it. Thanks a lot for all the follows (again) and for all the likes. Really means a lot to me.


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