Write a Page-Turner: Create Suspense

Robyn Carr Author
Virgin River series, Robyn Carr

Every novel needs suspense. So how do you write a page-turner?

This article, The Bookshelf Muse: Building Suspense: Meeting Readers In The Middle, gives excellent advice:

“Introduce questions early on

Not just one, but many. Drop them here and there. Don’t make it tidy. Make it mayhem with meaning. But make sure those drops do have meaning.

If a knife appears hanging on the wall in the beginning, the reader will question why its there and believe that the knife has importance down the road. (So make sure you show its reason…later.)
Make the reader ask: What happens next?”

Bestselling authors are wonderful at creating suspense. I enjoy thrillers; this is an obvious genre in which you must create suspense. The bad guys are doing something horrible, and the good guys are powerless to stop them.

Michael Crichton was wonderful at creating suspense. My favorite Crichton novel is Timeline. His characters time-travel to the fourteenth century. You’re thinking romance, and knights and ladies and castles, right? Well yes, there’s that. But the knights aren’t romantic at all, they’re blood-thirsty killers. I’ve read Timeline several times, and although I know what happens, each time I get shivers of anxiety — suspense.

Although you expect some genres — horror, thrillers, mysteries — to be packed with suspense, suspense is important in all genres.

Robyn Carr, for example, writes the wonderful Virgin River series. They’re classic women’s fiction, romances. How could they be filled with suspense? Trust me, they are. They’re page-turners. I’ve no idea how she does it, but I read through the entire series in a couple of weeks. Once I find an author I love, I’m a glutton. 🙂

Make sure every character has a secret

One way to create suspense is to make sure that every character has a secret.

A character reads a letter. Don’t reveal what the letter contains, but reveal the character’s panicked thoughts.

A character tells a lie. His enemy discovers the lie… suspense.

Give your characters’ secrets; place hints and clues. Those hints and clues create suspense.

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Angela Booth is a top copywriter, multi-published author, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills on her websites. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her business books have been widely published.