If you want your reader to continue reading, you have to give them a reason why. Draw them in and keep them guessing. The number one weapon in your arsenal to accomplish this feat is the use of suspense.
If you’ve done a good job of developing a character your reader cares about, they are going to hang on to make sure things work out in the end.
There are four main ways to create suspense.
- Put the outcome in doubt. Keep your reader guessing. It could end one way, but it could end another. This works best if your reader has a strong connection with the main character.
- Make them wait. Don’t show your hand up front. Don’t resolve issues right away. Present the conflict and then take your time presenting a resolution.
- Foreshadowing. Hint at what’s to come without sharing the details. Twilight used this technique by opening with the end minus all the details of how and why.
- Use a clock. The main character has a limited amount of time to accomplish a task. Will he/she find succeed or fail.
You can mix and match these techniques. You are not limited in your choice. An example would be opening with foreshadowing in the first paragraph and then adding the use of a clock at the end.
Something to think about.
Have you ever read a sentence and thought it was way too long? The author lost you two commas ago, and now you have to go back and read the whole thing again, to try and figure out what’s going on.
Or maybe you read a short sentence, followed by another short sentence, and another, and you’re thinking whoa, slow down.
There’s not a set rule for sentence length. It should be determined based on what you’re trying to accomplish. There are good reasons for those long, you lost me sentences, and short, what just happened sentences.
What do short sentences do?
- Create tension-When an author starts using short sentences, it’s usually a sign that something is about to happen.—-The dog growled. His teeth flashed. Jake turned. It was too late.
- Call the attention of a reader to a significant detail—She walked past central park in Manhattan, with her head held high. Gorgeous woman. Long blond hair. Blue eyes. Impeccable taste.
- Present sudden events-Out-of-the-blue actions that no one was expecting.—-We sat quietly enjoying our meal at the local fast food restaurant. Boom! “What was that?” I turned to see people rushing toward the gas station up the street.
- To summarize the ideas presented in the long paragraph or sentence.
What do long sentences do?
- Develop tension-While the short sentence is imminent, culminating with the actual event being acted out, the long sentence adds to the suspense, hinting at a situation in the process of developing.
- Give vivid description-depicting a setting, love scene, or someone’s appearance.—Autumn came without special invitation, coloring the trees in orange, yellow and red, whispering the cold in our ears and hiding the warm sun rays from our eyes.
- Investigates arguments, ideas, or facts thoroughly.
Although long sentences have the smell of the old-fashioned 19 century romantic prose, the usage of the long sentence in modern creative writing has it’s place.
When it comes to writing artistic literature, fairy tales, ghost stories, or mysteries, don’t underestimate the effects of short sentences.
Hope this didn’t confuse you too much. To sum it up, there’s a time and place for everything 🙂