If you want to create more suspense and or tension, make your sentences short. Use less description and action verbs.
If you want to slow down the scene, write longer sentences, give your character a chance to analyze clues and think about the hero and other characters in your novel.
In one scene in Lights, Camera. Murder! I didn’t really have any conflict in the chapter but I wanted to create a sense of urgency and add more “drama” to that particular part of the book.
It was easy enough then to add in a short scene where the macho stunt men confront the hero and heroine who were finally working toward the common goal-solving the murder.
This short scene added to the overall setting, created a conflict for the hero and heroine to solve together and advanced the tension.
Think about what other elements can be added to a scene of heightened suspense.
Perhaps the clicking of a clock, the beating of a heart, a crack of thunder, and headlights of a car illuminating that which the heroine wanted to stay hidden. Or a teacup or other sound that might draw the villain into a room where the heroine is hiding.
Use the elements around your heroine to punch up these scenes.
The And Then Factor
You have set the mood, developed the characters and now you have placed your heroine in a room with seemingly no way out.
She tries the window, it’s stuck. He’s climbing up the stairs, her heart is pounding, he’s closer just about to open the door, AND THEN the window opens...AND THEN…she climbs out onto the fire escape. AND THEN…the escape ladder doesn’t work…AND THEN….she has to climb out onto a ledge….AND THEN…the ledge is old, pieces break away from her feet and her fingers AND THEN… the bad guy comes out onto the ledge….(Of course you made her afraid of heights, right?) AND THEN….well, you get the idea. If you are writing suspense, keep upping the AND THEN Factor…to the last possible obstacle and then….. Add on two more….AND THENS!
Red Herrings & Clues
Your mystery novel is not a straight line from point A to point B. It’s a wandering path filled with clues that cause the heroine and hero to veer off that, travel different directions.
Clues will lead your hero/heroine to solving the crime. Red Herrings will lead the hero/heroine in another direction, usually away from the motive and away from the villain.
Still red herrings have to be researched by your characters before they can be set aside.
Clues can be left at the scene of the crime, be offered as off handed remarks by secondary characters. Clues can be overlooked, be coincidences but they take the heroine and hero on a journey like breadcrumbs down a path to discovery.
The clues should make the reader think, this person might be one villain or perhaps it’s that other guy or gal.
Every villain leaves something behind at the crime scene. From DNA to fingerprints, from evidence is there if only you know where to look.
This is where your plot book comes in handy because if allows you to thoughtfully add in and bury a variety of clues and red herrings in your novel before you actually start writing it.
Giving the Readers an Edge
I was one of those kids who would scream in movie theaters-”No, don’t go through that door, he’s waiting for you!”
For me, it was traumatic to watch the heroine then go through the door or watch the suspecting heroine welcome the villain into her house.
Sometimes, it’s okay to give the readers the edge.
This spine tingling effect can work magic in your manuscript. Let your readers in on the antagonist’s next move and they’ll be screaming at your heroine to stop, run… all the while turning the pages to see what happens next.
Tomorrow, we are going to cover a very important lesson, research!
Stay tuned! Linn