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Building Up Suspense

What makes a novel good? Why do you read a book until the end? Two questions, one answer – It is all about suspense.


If you want your audience to feel suspense, readers have to know what drives the protagonists of your book.

What do they want to find out?

With whom do they want to spend their life?

Where do they want to live?

What obstacles do they have to face?

What is their “leitmotiv”?

When readers know what a protagonist wants to achieve, this will keep them on the edge of their seats. The more concrete and visual the heart’s desire of a protagonist is, the easier it is for readers to understand his/her craving.

Visual Vocabulary

A house in nature is less visual than a cottage in the hilly Scottish countryside. A cottage with a garden and sea view in the idyllic countryside in Scotland is even more visual and probably reminds readers of the cottage they stayed in with their family every summer.

Now the time has come to build up suspense. Someone is preventing your protagonist from achieving what they want.  A series of conflicts come between protagonists and their goals, interrupted by moments when they look so close to realizing their dreams.

This is what keeps your readers in suspense and is the core of your story. Readers can empathize, feel their heart beating and would never put down your book.

Now, all you have to do is ask two important questions – was does my protagonist want to achieve? What prevents him/her from doing that?

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