I love roller coasters. Not a thing scary about them. But what I find absolutely terrifying are Ferris wheels and chairlifts. Why is it that I rush to line up for rides that hurtle me through time and space, but flee from those that leave me hanging?
The answer, of course, has to do with suspense. Having time to consider what might happen while I’m ‘suspended’ in air with nothing but a few clanking cables to keep me from plummeting to my certain demise is what freaks me out. It has nothing to do with the ‘what is’ and everything to do with the ‘what if’.
The same goes for writing. The buildup is what creates page-turning suspense for me. It’s not about the fangs of a werewolf ripping into its prey…it’s the slobbery snarl at the back door, the click of claws on floorboards downstairs, the smell of wet fur in the hallway outside my bedroom door. It’s about the what-ifs, what-could-bes, and what-might-happens. About the shadows…and foreshadows.
So here’s my question for writers: how do you go about ‘suspending’ action in order to build suspense that terrifies—or at least that keeps readers turning pages?