Seven Ways to
into Your Novel
Copyright Lynette Rees - All Rights
Certain genres are renowned for being
more suspenseful than others: horror, crime fiction and
romantic suspense, but each and every book, no matter
whether it's a Historical Romance or a Paranormal Fantasy,
HAS to have a level of suspense interwoven between the
All stories need to have this element, otherwise the reader
isn't going to want to turn the page, it's as simple as
that. So if you're interested in what makes a suspenseful
page turner, then please read on...
Creating conflict in your novel is a given, otherwise there
would be no story. If all went smoothly it would be as
dull-as-dishwater, wouldn't it? They all lived happily
throughout the story and ever after, yawn...
I've listed seven ways you can inject suspense into your
1. Introduce your characters to their worst
Find out about your characters beforehand. If possible,
write up their likes and dislikes etc, and most importantly
of all, find out what it is they fear most? What is it that
causes their hearts to thump loudly, beads of perspiration
to form on their upper lips, and the hairs on the back of
their necks to stand on end? Find out what that thing or
things are, and then give it to them, both barrels. For
example, if your heroine is petrified of flying because her
parents died in a plane crash, create a story where she HAS
to take a journey on an airplane. If your hero fears water
because he almost drowned as a young child, put him in a
position where he HAS to get back in the water to rescue
Introduce them to their worst nightmare and watch how they
2. Lull them into a false sense of security
When your character is really frightened of something,
throw in a red herring. For example, if your heroine thinks
she hears a noise outside, allow the plot to let her fears
grow and grow. Let it be something quite innocuous, like
the dustbin blowing over in the wind. Then, when she has
reassured herself, breathing a sigh of relief, petrify her
to death by placing a prowler outside her back door!
3. Throw the spotlight on at least two people
This might sound a little obvious, but for goodness sake,
don't make the villain of the piece stand out a mile.
Instead, have suspicion fall on at least two, possibly
three characters. This will have the effect of your reader
not really being sure until the end, when the other shoe
falls! But, by all means, leave some clues and some red
herrings along the way!
Pacing is important to create suspense. In general, short,
snappy sentences will enable the reader to race ahead so
they feel their heart is beating in time with the
frightened protagonist. Longer sentences tend to slow
things down. You might want to speed things up for a car
chase or slow it down for a love making scene. Imagine your
novel as if you were watching it on the big screen. How
would it be filmed? What would that particular scene look
like to the audience?
5. The calm before the storm
Make use of the weather to good effect. Thunderclouds
brewing overhead, often give the reader the feeling that
something is about to happen [prophetic fallacy]. A bolt of
lightening hitting the night sky, power lines down, a
stranger at the door, etc. Think of the last time you
watched a horror film; didn't the weather come into
6. When all goes well, throw in a dead body!
When you hit a sagging middle of a novel, and you find
there's no where to go, try throwing in a dead body. This
doesn't necessarily mean that a character has to be killed
off, although you might want to do just that, it can mean
that something unexpected happens, such as the birth of a
baby, etc. Something that injects a little more oomph into
Setting is very important as a tool to create suspense.
What about that dark stone staircase covered in cobwebs? Or
the elevator that suddenly stops in between floors?
Choosing the right sort of setting can make or break a
novel. And sometimes, placing the object or person the
protagonist fears in an innocuous setting, can make the
story all the more horrifying.
Be cruel to your characters and watch them run for their
About the Author: Lynette Rees lives in Wales and has written
many short stories, articles and novels. Return to
Winter, a romantic suspense novel, is due for release
at The Wild Rose Press in April 2007. A
Taste of Honey, a romantic comedy, is due for release
at Samhain Publishing in the same month. Both novels
will initially be released as e-books and then three months
later will go into print.