Keeping You in Suspense- by Donna

There is nothing better than fall in Colorado. As I write this, a horse drawn wagon filled with pumpkins and kids just clip-clopped down my street to the accompanying swirl of bright red leaves. There is a fresh dusting of snow on the Rocky Mountain Park’s 14ers in the distance, and the porches lining my neighborhood are decorated with ghosts and witches blowing in the crisp breeze. So I think it’s only natural my thoughts have turned to … SUSPENSE.

And that leads me to a confession. I know I’m going to date myself, but I loved Dark Shadows. I rushed home every afternoon after elementary school with my best friend, Marsha Courtney, to park in front of the television and scare ourselves silly. When Quentin’s Theme came on I would watch the screen through carefully spread fingers. So wanting to see—but so not wanting to see—the next scene. I happened to watch an episode of the old TV show a couple of years ago and was shocked at how different it was from my memory—horrible special effects and over the top camp—but it was the beginning of my love of suspense. Later in life that passion would become a love of Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novels (Check out The Ivy Tree) and a wide variety of crime/detective mysteries. The common denominator remained the same. I loved not knowing for sure how things would turn out and I especially loved it when the stakes were dangerously high for the main character. Maybe it was life or death or maybe it was the potential for love lost—but there was a chance I might be surprised at the outcome—and that kept me reading.

In researching, I found “suspense” defined as a feeling of uncertainty and anxiety about the outcome of certain actions with tension being a primary emotion. Bingo. That delicious combination of anticipation and uncertainty about the future is exactly what makes me love a good suspenseful read and it made me start to ask some questions about my current work in progress:

 What’s at stake for my main character? Physically? Emotionally? Both?
 Is there a real possibility of unpredictability of the outcome?
 What’s the risk involved?
 Is there doubt about the outcome?

According to Greek philosopher Aristotle, suspense consists of having some real danger looming and a ray of hope. To me that’s a perfect definition for “narrative tension” and I hope it’s in every chapter I write. So join us this week as we explore the concept of suspense and let us know what you think.

Happy Halloween!

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