Sunday, January 9, 2011

Suspense and informing the reader

Suspense has been used in mystery writings of many genres.  Books, movies, and television have been using it as a motivator to add to their content for a long time.  I believe that it is inherent in human nature to want to “Figure it out.” There is an ache in the back of our minds that urges us to look just a little deeper.  My thoughts on suspense and informing my readers are applied to my own writings, and I wanted to pass them on to you.

First off, I don't write mystery books in the traditional sense.  The surprise twist at the end with no hints does not do the story justice.  I want my readers to have all the tools at their disposal to figure out the answers, but at the same time I want it to be sort of a surprise as well.  Generally I put the answers two chapters before the mysteries are revealed in full.  Also, I like to end my chapters with cliff hangers that just so happen to answer those questions.

Mysteries tend to take a back burner to the action for me, in fact I generally don't make it a priority to throw many mysteries into my books, and however I do generally like to have one mystery that drives the book itself, a main character that tries his best to figure it out.

That does not mean that I believe in being outright blatant about my suspense either.  Just because something is there, does not mean the twist is foreseen easily.  I want the reader to say to others, "I saw it coming." but to be secretly impressed and get that "Awesome!" feeling inside when they read it.

One of the story devices I use quite frequently is the preface at the beginning of the chapter, a bit of information that would come in handy later on, but would not be one hundred percent necessary to read.  This is more of an added bonus and it doesn't feel like blatant exposition, since it is completely optional and separate from the main body of the book.

Let's take my Sci-fi book as an example.  The main character is not the smartest cookie, in fact he is relatively dense and admits to himself that he does not have the brains in the family.  What he does have is the brute power to see it through to the end and to punch his way to the truth (Yup I said punch).  The mystery comes in at the beginning and then takes a back seat to the fight scenes along the way, though it focuses on the now, the mystery pushes the story forward by giving the main character a reason to push forward.

In summation, I want the reader to feel a sense of curiosity.  I want them to ask, “Why is this going on?” and not “What will happen next.” It would be amazing if the reader could figure out what was going to happen, without ruining the twist, so that he/she could pat themselves on the back afterward and get that added sense of, “Good job!” for their insight into the story.  This is my goal.

No comments:

Post a Comment