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How to Write Suspense Like If You’re Opening a Christmas Present

December 28, 2012
Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at

Remember that feeling you got as a child when opening your Christmas presents?

What if you could write a novel with so much suspense that you could get readers to turn the pages with that same feeling.

Now, the way I remember it as a child, it was exciting to search through the sea of presents under the Christmas tree and find one with your name on it, especially if it was a really big one.

But what was even more exciting was that one super stupendously awesome present you really wanted, the one that instantly came to mind when Santa asks what would you like for Christmas.

Whether it’s a G.I. Jane Kung Fu Griping Rocket Punching Barbie complete with a scared Ken, or a Colecovision videogame, there’s that one present that all the excitement is about, not the other big ones under the tree.

But let’s change the angle a bit. Who do you think experiences more suspense?

Is it the child opening presents, or is it the parent looking on at the child?

Now, I’m not a parent so I can’t imagine what it’s like, but I can relate it to giving a present to someone you really care for and want to impress.

I would think that if a parent purchased that amazing gift that a child has been clamouring about for months, then there would be suspense in seeing if the child really appreciated that gift.

That’s where the suspense is greatest. Not with the child, but with the parent, looking on with interest, and maybe even nervous, to see if the child is going to be happy or if things will get critical.

Will her face light up, will she utter “you’re the best in the whole world”, or will she just throw it aside all disappointed?

So how do you create a novel that has so much suspense that it glues the reader to the page like a parent looking at their child opening a present?

You let the reader know all the dangers even if the character does not know.

Think about it. The suspense with the parent exists because the parent knows what the present is, and that the child made a really big deal out of it.

As the parent, you know every gift, and you know which gift is “the one”. But the child does not know.

Similarly, if a character is in a really dangerous situation, and does not know how life threatening it is, then by letting the reader know creates suspense.

That way, the reader will be turning pages, wondering if the character will make that fatal step, or how they would react when they find out how close to death they are.

So if you would like more suspense in your story, let the reader know how dangerous the situation is and see if that was what you needed to push your writing to the next level.

So what do you think about letting the reader know the dangers to create suspense? Let me know in the comments. And if you haven’t already, don’t forget to read Descend from the Sky, this month’s trailer of my latest book, King Larsen.

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From → Writing Tips

One Comment
  1. Good Tip! I’m ruminating a mystery short story. Thanks!

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