Conflict versus Suspense

Been working on the rewrites for Sins of the Father.  Sometimes I get really into the reading and can’t put it down and then I wonder, is it just me?  Am I just interested in these people because I know them so well?  Will anyone else care?

Since this is a mystery, conflict and suspense are integral to the story’s success.  I’ve been reading about conflict and suspense, trying to get a better handle on these two somewhat related but different elements.

Conflict:  the story IS conflict.  If it isn’t, then you don’t have a story.  Of course, you also need conflict resolution–otherwise, your reader won’t like you.

Suspense:  this is keeping the reader turning the page, making them want to know, “what next?”

Conflict is intrinsic–you’ve either got it or you don’t.  But suspense is a technique for keeping the reader excited and interested enough in the conflict to see things through to their resolution.

So how do you create suspense?

1.  tantalize–promise but not quite deliver (at least not right away).

2.  seed up to the climax–be sure you’ve given the reader enough information so that they can make the intellectual and emotional leap with you.

3.  keep things simple–pare down to your focus.

4.  visualize that climatic scene

5.  stay close to your character–show their thoughts and feelings

6.  use a vocabulary of urgency–grab, pull, shove, don’t take or reach.

So just a few thoughts on conflict and suspense and I’m deep into the rewrites (and starting to look for an agent).

How about you?  What techniques do you use to invest suspense into your writing?

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