Monday, June 28, 2010

Part II Suspense - What is the Structure of a Suspense Novel?

Part I asked the question, what is suspense, and my definition included: A suspense is a novel that increases intensity as the main character faces deception and danger while he devises a means to overcome the threat from the villain as the characters make choices that leads to plot twists, forshadowing and clues. Once defined, the next step is to identify degree of suspense and how the plot is structured.

Three common types of suspense are in degrees of the disaster:

• Smaller - Searching or protecting someone or something - Silence of Lamb

• Medium - Personal risk factors, life or property - The Firm

• Large - Sinister characters/twists and turns, mortal danger TV’s 24 or Lost

The nature of suspense is like the action of waves in a stormy sea or a roller coaster ride. Each scene flows between calm to excitement, seeing the wave or the hill coming and then facing it. Yet even the calm moments hint at the excitement to come. The pattern goes from suspense to resolve to calm Each step pushes the story forward.

The Structure of Suspense:

Suspense is built on components that leave the situation hanging as the characters and readers worry about what will happen next. These components are important to creating a suspense that keeps readers on the edge of their seats.

• Open with novel with a dynamic situation that nails them to their chair immediately.

• Create likeable yet flawed main characters that readers will care about. The character’s flaws will help create conflicts in the story.

• Provide strong motivation for the story hero to resolve the problem. The more personal the problem is, the greater the stakes and the greater the stakes, the more the reader will relate.

• Create a worthy opponent or villain. Give villain meaningful motivation and the strength to destroy the hero. For realism, provide him with a redeemable quality.

• Devise the conflicts and situations to grow from the least to the worse. Keep the stakes high and don’t make things easy for the hero. Make him use his brain and brawn.

• Select an effective point of view. Most suspense will have multiple POVs which means various characters will have their time to shine in a scene. This allows various takes on the issues being faced and can also provide the reader with information that other characters don’t know. Often the villain will have a POV whether the reader knows how the person is or not.

• The “ticking clock” is a dynamic technique to keep the story moving forward and adding to the apprehension and fear of the characters and the reader. Think of the TV show 24. A terrorist has hidden a bomb that will destroy Manhattan. A kidnaped child must have his medication within 10 hours or he will die. The woman will be murdered by her stalker if not located and saved. These situation accelerates the pressure to solve the situation and brings about an exciting ending.

Part III Suspense - will cover suspense characterization and how to enhance it. 

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