I’ve never claimed to be a suspense writer. It’s one of those things that I just never felt I’d be any good at. I think the closest I’ve come to writing anything suspenseful is my short story Tunnel of Darkness, which was originally published by Gothic City Press in Clerics, Charlatans, and Cultists. That anthology has gone out of print, but Tunnel of Darkness will be reprinted in an anthology by Martinus Publishing this October.
Anyhow, back to suspense, my outlook changed last year when I attended a session at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference by bestselling author William Kent Krueger on writing suspense.
He said something so simple, yet so provocative, that I’m sure most writers already understand it. But to me, it was something I hadn’t thought about before:
“Suspense isn’t about what is happening at this moment, it’s about what might happen in the next.”
And holy crap, suddenly everything made perfect sense to me. What keeps a reader reading? THAT. They are waiting to see what happens next.
In the same speech, he also talked about how to stretch that moment out and delay the conflict. The longer you can do this (without getting boring) the more suspense you’ll be able to build.
It was just such good advice and doesn’t have to stop with writing suspense. It’s the key to adding tension to any scene and in my case, it was a piece of advice that really changed the way I write horror. In fact, every horror short story I’ve written since then has been published.
So I just had to share.
What kind of quick writing tips would you like to share?