Thriller writing? Mystery writing? Literary fiction? It’s all the same: Building apprehension in the minds of your readers is one of the most effective keys to engaging them early in your novel and keeping them flipping pages late into the night.
Simply put, if you don’t hook your readers, they won’t get into the story. If you don’t drive the story forward by making readers worry about your main character, they won’t have a reason to keep reading.
Think: Worry equals suspense.
The best part is, the secrets for ratcheting up the suspense are easy to implement. Here are six of the most effective.
1. Put characters that readers care about in jeopardy.
Four factors are necessary for suspense—reader empathy, reader concern, impending danger and escalating tension.
We create reader empathy by giving the character a desire, wound or internal struggle that readers can identify with. The more they empathize, the closer their connection with the story will be. Once they care about and identify with a character, readers will be invested when they see the character struggling to get what he most desires.
We want readers to worry about whether or not the character will get what he wants. Only when readers know what the character wants will they know what’s at stake. And only when they know what’s at stake will they be engaged in the story. To get readers more invested in your novel, make clear: 1) What your character desires (love, freedom, adventure, forgiveness, etc.); 2) what is keeping him from getting it; and 3) what terrible consequences will result if he doesn’t get it. See More . . .