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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What Is Suspense?

Please welcome guest blogger JD Webb

I hope your chapter members are up for an exciting, beneficial workshop come December 6 through the 19th. I call it Adding Suspense to Your Killer Novel.

When I first started writing I never thought much about suspense. Suspense popped up, but much of the time by accident. I seldom analyzed what it took to make my work suspenseful. Reading and listening to authors who created it, I realized there was a trick to making it happen. I wanted to know how, so I began to study suspense.

In time I’d picked up tips and tricks to add to my writing. Then I was asked to be a presenter for the Muse Online Writer’s Conference about six years ago. So I worked up the courage to claim to have some knowledge and dove in. It must have worked because I’m still doing it today. And my class for your chapter is what I call my thesis on the subject. I’ve tried to refine and digest all the things I’ve learned so far. And I’m still learning as well. The day I think I have it all figured out has not yet arrived.

All too often authors confuse suspense with action. In fact they are opposites. Suspense delays the action. Once that action has occurred, suspense for that event is complete. We know what happens, and we don’t have to fret about it. What I hope to do in our workshop is provide some tweaking to our thinking.

Imagine a couple attending a dinner party. They’re late and their host asks what happened. The woman says, “We had a flat.” The man says, “We had a blow-out at 70 miles per hour. I wrestled the car under control, just missing two semis in heavy traffic, and jammed on the brakes when I steered the car to the shoulder.”

Which one has the suspense? It’s all in how you tell – no how you
show the story. That sentence could expand to draw out the suspense for a chapter or more with the driver trying to get his wife to safety.

We’ll look at ways to create, enhance, and heighten suspense. And it makes no difference what type of fiction an author writes. Suspense must be present in every genre. Conflict happens and the longer it takes place, the more critical the circumstances, the more suspense you have.

We’ll have practical examples of participants creating suspense and I’ll provide some critique tips. Along the way, we’ll have some fun and enjoy some mayhem. Hope to see you all there.

JD (Dave) Webb resides in Illinois with his wife (42years in Dec 2009 and counting) and their toy poodle, Ginger, losing all family votes 2 to 1. Dave served in the Security Service of the Air Force as a Chinese linguist and weather analyst in Viet Nam and the Philippines prior to spending 25 years in corporate management. A company purge promoted him to cobbler and he owned a shoe repair and sales shop for 11 years. During these careers he wrote short stories and suppressed an urge to write a novel. After making a conscious decision to live at the poverty level, those novels began forcing their way out.

Becoming a full time author in 2002, Dave has garnered several awards. A short story called The Key to Christmas placed third in the 2006 La Belle Lettre literary contest. His first novel Shepherd’s Pie won a publisher’s Golden Wings Award for excellence in writing. His second novel Moon Over Chicago was a top ten finisher in the 2008 Preditors and Editors Poll in the mystery category and was a finalist in the prestigious 2008 Eppie awards by the Electronic Publishing Internet Connection. He is also the Owner and Moderator of the Publishing and Promoting Yahoo group with almost 900 international members.

Creating Suspense, presented by JD Webb and Pepper Smith, runs from December 6 through December 19th, 2010

1 comment:

J D Webb said...

Just a quick note to add. Pepper Smith has had to withdraw from the workshop for health reasons. I'll be there, though, and I have some of her notes to add to our discussions.