Sunday, October 2, 2016

What Was That Noise? By Ann Haywood Leal

My mom couldn't stand the suspense of an unopened gift or an unknown resolution in a novel.  She'd try very hard to resist the impulse, but she'd almost always give in and read the end of that book.

My aunt made the most delicious fudge from a secret recipe that she refused to divulge, and she'd only make it at Christmas.  My mom knew that fudge was arriving at our house around December 20, or so, and she adored and craved that fudge like the rest of us.  We were all shocked one year when the box still lay unopened under the tree on December 25 . . . until my brother opened it and found an entire corner of fudge cut out and missing.

Annie Dillard once said, "Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now."  It's one of my favorite writing quotes.  My mom would have loved that quote, but I'm quite sure Ms. Dillard wasn't referring to suspense.


Suspense has to be stretched out until the rubber band is just about to snap.

What's inside the box?

What's behind the door?

What's around the corner?

Didn't you hear that?

You wake up in the darkness of your room . . . Did you just dream that voice? . . . Or did it come from downstairs?


We have to give it away a trickle at a time, but do give a glimpse to keep the reader wondering and turning those pages.  Give a quick flash of what is around that corner.  Make them want to sneak into that box of fudge.

I leave you with another quote and a challenge from the incomparable Stephen King:


5 comments:

  1. Love this, Ann. Much food for thought.

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  2. It's a delicate balance, isn't it? You can't leave a reader wondering TOO long--but there always needs to be an element of mystery.

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