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Creating the Perfect Suspense Filled Backstory

  • April 9 2015
  • Comments Off on Creating the Perfect Suspense Filled Backstory

Writing suspense fiction is no easy task. Successfully creating and maintaining suspense is a foolproof way to engage readers and ensure that they keep turning pages until the end of the book; however, actually creating that type of atmosphere can be a complicated process. Never fear – there are strategies that you can employ in order to make the process slightly easier. In this article, I’m going to give you some tips to consider the next time you find yourself desperately trying to add intrigue and a sense of thrill to your backstory.



Don’t Restrict Your Reader’s View

When writing suspense, it’s important to remember that your reader will be far more engaged in your writing if they are constantly discovering new bits of information and piecing them together. Don’t just present them with a completed puzzle – let them see various parts of the story from different perspectives and through different events. When there are multiple characters involved in a storyline, make sure to devote time to explaining each of their perspectives. Give them all action, not just your protagonist, and allow the reader to really understand why each character acted the way they did. Not only does this give the reader more time to become invested in your characters, but it also lets them see where your character has come from, how they got to their current situation, and what might happen next. Keep them on their toes!



Make Your Characters Relatable

It is important to make your characters relatable or more specifically, make your character’s situation relatable. I don’t mean that you should only write about things that everyone has experienced, but rather that the motivations for your character’s actions should be understandable. Preventing the loss of a loved one or rescuing a kidnapped child, for example, aren’t necessarily situations that all of your readers will have intimate experience with, but chances are good that they will understand the fear of losing a child or loved one. If you make the motivation relatable, your reader is more likely to be invested in your character’s actions and root for their success. This draws them further into your story and ups the pressure the reader feels, as they read deeper into your plot.



Work within a Set Amount of Time

By this I mean that your protagonist should have a set amount of time in which to complete their objective. If they have all the time in the world to lazily wander from place to place, gathering information without the fear of negative consequences, the story will seem to fizzle. Why would a reader feel drawn into the story when even the main character doesn’t seem to have a sense of urgency? Instead, use time constraints to create a sense of threat. What happens once the kidnappers have gone 48 hours without receiving the ransom? What exactly will the unknown caller do once the clock reaches midnight if your protagonist hasn’t successfully reached his daughter’s home? There should be a concrete sense of urgency throughout your writing that drives your plot from point to point.



Don’t Go Easy on Your Protagonist

What type of self-respecting criminal just waits around idly while the protagonist rushes around trying to foil their plans? In much the same vein as the above tip, your character should always be facing a challenge or dilemma of some sort. Of course they are racing against the clock to achieve their main goal, but if nothing stands in their way, how exciting will the story really be? Instead, challenge your protagonist. Present them with odds that seem hard to overcome, or situations that test their moral strength and determination. Drive them to the point of breaking before allowing them to overcome the odds and emerge victorious. Give them a lot of issues to deal with, too – don’t forget how unpredictable life can be, and how often you’ve been the victim of an odd confluence of circumstances that has created an unforeseen problem. Just as you have fallen victim to fate, allow the same to happen to your protagonist (or antagonist). Give them unpredictable obstacles to overcome, and flesh out their histories along the way.



Like I mentioned above, writing suspense isn’t easy – but if you follow the above tips, I think you’ll find it a lot more doable that ever before. You can absolutely create a suspenseful backstory that captures your reader’s attention and passion. All you need is time, effort, and maybe a few tips from fellow writers.



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Cameron Mackey

Cameron is the Content Manager for the Vorongo Blog. He has spent three years in various content marketing roles. When he is not working with Vorongo he enjoys photography and hiking.

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