How to write suspense.



Friday, November 21, 2014

Betrayed by Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen

Introducing the cover (which I absolutely love) for my next romantic suspense novel, Betrayed. It will be released on January 2, 2015, and is now available for pre-order here. Can't wait!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Page-turning Momentum

One of my favorite secrets to keeping readers turning the pages of my books is that I end each chapter with something that causes readers to want to keep reading. Authors often work for that sense of forward momentum through the use of cliff-hangers like intriguing breaks in dialogue (Remember how the chapter broke between Bella and Edward's conversation at the restaurant in Twilight?), something bad happening, or the indication that trouble looms ahead. At the end of Chapter One in my paranormal suspense novel, Trapped, Emi Warren realizes a thief had been in her room while she slept.

Another lesser-known, page-turning tool also takes place at the end of the chapter. It is to include a new, POV character goal that makes the reader want to find out if he or she can accomplish it. For instance, at the end of chapter twenty-five in my contemporary, romantic-suspense novel, Missing, the romantic lead determines he’s got to find some way to tell the main character of his feelings for her even though he sees no way to do that. Will he find a way? What will happen if he does? That's suspense.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


A novel's Point of View characters must be in danger of losing something or someone important to them. The threat of physical death is always good, but other losses can be equally effective: Will Scarlett O’Hara save her home? Will Elizabeth Bennett find true love? Will Stacie Cox (from my novel, Missing) rescue the kidnapped child? 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Intriguing Characters in Desperate Situations

If readers don’t care about your character or her problem, they will stop reading your story. As I develop my characters, I search for desperate situations that both intrigue and worry me, with the emphasis on worry. For example, when my mother was a child, she woke to find a thief in her room. That intriguing and worrisome situation became my inciting incident for Trapped.

Similarly, the idea for the opening of my next novel, Betrayed (June 2014), came from an ancestral, pioneer story about two children who were forced  alone, onto the prairie, after men murdered their parents. Because situations like these upset or bother me for an extended amount of time, I believe they will bother or upset a reader--and keep them reading. 

Brainstorm question: What bothers you?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Opportunity Knocking

If you're a suspense writer searching for a chance to break into publication, this contest might be just the thing you're looking for. It's sponsored by Amazon. Take a look here! Good luck.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Par out Clues

When I first started writing suspense, I thought I needed many secrets to my story so I'd have enough material to surprise readers with. The task seemed daunting. But as I continued to study novels by other authors similar to my own, I realized the trick is not necessarily to have tons of secrets, but to par out the information I do have a little at a time. Look at any mystery novel as an example. Each clue to the final mystery is interesting and keeps the reader reading, but by itself, it's not necessarily exciting until they come together in the finale. Then bang!

Consider the first Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr. (Spoiler Alert) In it, the real secret to the bad guy's success is that he uses science to achieve his evil designs. Along the journey of the novel's story, the author gives us little clues. Here are a few. The watch, the experiments, the drugs, the boiled frogs, Alone, these bits of information aren't too exciting, but when they are combined with the frightening murders, the bad guy's "resurrection," and the interesting characters, we have an intriguing and suspenseful tale.

So this week's secret is spread out tiny clues to the ultimate secret.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Keeping Readers Reading

I found a blog post some time ago where several successful authors spoke on how to keep our readers reading.

This is from Libby Fischer Hellmann:  Suspense depends on presenting obstacles and complications for your characters. And when you couple those obstacles to a deadline, you have instant suspense. Will he rescue the girl in time? Will the bad guy get away? Can he defuse the bomb before it blows? Those are classic examples of suspense.