How to write suspense.



Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Page-Turning List

I can't tell you how many times I've read "my-book-must-have" lists written by established authors. All have been helpful, but I LOVE the one I've chosen to share here today. I especially love Hallie Ephron's advice on opening scenes. Here's a taste:

"Hallie Ephron, the author of Come and Find Me, Never Tell a Lie and Writing and Selling your Mystery Novel: How to Knock ‘Em Dead with Style, amongst others, knows how to write a page-turner. (And in case you’re wondering, yes, she is one of the well-known Ephron family of writers.)

"Mystery and psychological suspense are her specialty, but the writing tools she offered at the Willamette Writer’s Conference spell great writing advice – whether you write mystery/suspense, other fiction forms or memoir, too. Here are a list of 20 writing tips to use as a checklist for your writing.


* Open the book in action. Read books you love and see how those authors open their books.
* Even when you start in action, readers still need to care about your characters (or about you, if it’s a memoir). Even character-driven authors, like Janet Evanovich, draw you in through the power of their quirky characters actions and those characters’ strong voices.
* A common opening mistake is to include too much backstory. Get moving. Then, layer in backstory in bits as the story gets going."

Have I caught your attention? It's a good list, isn't it? To read more, including her point that suspense novels must contain secrets, click here.

By the way, Bonnie won my blog hop prize. Congratulations!


  1. One other issue I'll see with backstory is when an author starts with a really exciting moment--and THEN plunges into backstory. It's STILL not necessary at that point--as Ephron says, layer it in in bits.