October Theme: The Fast—and the Terrifying
By Marcia Thornton Jones

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?


  1. I'm just the opposite, Marcia. Speed terrifies me, but the ferris wheel and being skybound is exhilarating. Terror is as individual as a story; what keeps me awake at night may put others to sleep. That what makes writing - and reading - such a wonderful adventure of discovery.

  2. Whoa, I'm going to have nightmares about werewolves.

  3. "What if" can be the scariest question of all, can't it?

  4. I love those details—the slobbery snarl, the click of claws—I always race to the fangs of the werewolf digging into its prey and have to pull back and force myself to slow down. Thinking about the details of the lead up will be a big help—thanks!

  5. I love the slobbery snarl, too!

  6. I love the what-might-happens!


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