Ooh, I’ve been writing so hard I feel as if my head is spinning and I could easily have parked my bicycle high on the wall of this French restaurant and in fact perhaps I did!
Although I hardly know whether I’m on my head on my heels, I do recall rash promises of talking about tension and suspense, so here are a few brief thoughts…
Tension, suspense, anticipation – all of them delicious emotions if you experience them in moderation, although the extreme versions take you into murky, E L James, pain-and-pleasure territory, so it’s probably best to stay within the parameters of delicious and allow your reader the thrill of having their expectations built up, before they are fulfilled or thwarted.
There are a few ways of doing this.
- You can announce that something is going to happen up front and then leave your reader in an agony as to how and why.
- You can drop hints – the use of portents and omens a la Thomas Hardy can be very useful here – without being too specific, just enough to whet the appetite.
- You can take your reader right to the brink of the crisis, and leave them there.
- You can convince your reader that one thing is going to happen and then surprise them with another.
It’s a form of structural flirtation, a literary come-on. In a way, plotting the novel is an extended seduction, so we’re back in EL James territory once again. You want to confound your reader, but not too often. You want to leave them hungry for more.