Saturday, March 1, 2008

Pacing in a Suspense

What is it you like about a suspense? What makes you keeping turning the pages? I would love to get readers input in on this.

Pacing (cliffhangers):

Pacing is important to any story but even more so for a suspense. Fast pacing keeps the reader turning the page. A short time line is usually best in a suspense. When you have long descriptive sections, that will slow the pacing. Short sentences will speed up the pacing.

Another aspect of pacing and keeping the reader turning the pages is using cliffhangers at the end of scenes and especially at the end of chapters. You don’t want a person putting your book down if possible. One of the nicest compliments I can receive is when someone says they stayed up all night reading my book or didn’t do anything all day because they couldn’t put my book down.

One of the ways I create a cliffhanger is to stop the scene in the middle of the action or at a pivotal place, possibly right before a crucial decision is made.

“A sound behind her caused her to hug her purse closer to her and hurry her pace. She had taken only two steps before arms locked around her middle and yanked her off her feet.” Heart of the Amazon, LIS, January 2007 by Margaret Daley—end of chapter one

“After taking her key out of her purse, she had started to fit it into the lock when she noticed her door was slightly ajar. Her hand reaching forward, trembling as she snatched it back.
‘I know I locked my door. I always do.’
Mr. Slader shouldered her out of the way. ‘Stay back.’” Heart of the Amazon—end of chapter two
“She grabbed for her yellow satin robe that had been torn in several places but was still wearable. The sounds were coming from Mr. Slader’s room. The thought he was in trouble prodded her forward without really thinking through what she was doing.” Heart of the Amazon—end of chapter three

“She lurched for it, her fingers almost clasping onto it. But with her body too far over the edge of the canoe, Kate tumbled into the river, plunging headfirst into its warm, murky depths. She opened her mouth to scream and swallowed a mouthful of the dirty water.” Heart of the Amazon—end of chapter four
“Her legs aching from squatting, she shifted, intending to kneel instead. As she glanced down, fear shook her foundation. She opened her mouth to scream.” Heart of the Amazon—end of chapter

As you can see with the cliffhangers I shared with you, you stop in the middle of a pivotal part of the suspense scene. It’s hard not to read the next page to see what happened if you do a cliffhanger right. Before your reader knows it, she has read the whole book and has stayed up too late. Now that is pacing!

Margaret Daley


Pammer said...

Great advice Margaret. I always stay up too late reading one of your books. That's why I usually just clear a Saturday to read it, lol. I still have trouble with cliffhanger endings so I really appreciate your help.


Linda Goodnight said...

Hi Margaret,

Loved your examples of cliffhangers! Ooh, gotta find time to read that!!

I think pacing is an issue many writers wrestle with, especially in those middle sections of a book. Anyway, I do. Short, snappy sentences combined with some problem/monkey wrench speed things up. Internalizations and descriptions slow things down. I think dialogue speeds things up too.

Your examples were an inspiration to me and a good reminder that I need to do a better job in my wip!

Linda Goodnight

Margaret Daley said...

Thanks, Pam and Linda. I appreciate your input.


Debby Giusti said...

Hi Margaret!
It's Sunday night -- a little late, but I wanted to say hello! Love your books! You're the Queen of Suspense! Looking forward to your March release!