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Create suspense with wide and narrow views: Editor's Notes #318
July 22, 2020

Every problem contains the seeds of its own solution.
—Stanley Arnold

In this issue:

1. Create suspense with wide and narrow views
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt
5. My Covid-19 offer to you

1.Create suspense with wide and narrow views
Suspense is a great way to hook a reader. Here are tips both for the wide view, i.e., the overall story you are telling and the narrow view, i.e., a specific scene or action.

First, the wide view.

Create suspense by letting the reader know what the main character wants. Then threaten that desire. The threat can be internal or external, but it must be real. The character won’t reach his dream. Hansel and Gretel want to get home to their father.

Not reaching the dream is bad enough, but you can up the ante by adding a negative consequence. Not only are they going to miss seeing their father, but they are also going to be eaten by a witch!

Racing the clock adds suspense when the consequences are looming. Cinderella has to get home before midnight.

When you have used broad strokes to ensure there is suspense in the story structure, turn your attention to the narrow view.

If your story has chapters, cliffhangers keep readers turning the page even at the end of a chapter. The hero is hanging from a cliff, and the reader must keep reading to find out what happens. So, end a chapter with a new hurdle, a loss, or a setback.

Write short. Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs to add suspense. A reader’s heart rate goes up when reading short, pounding passages.

Slow the action. The example I like for this is from movies that show a bullet moving toward the hero. The camera stays on the bullet and slows the action until the bullet hits or misses or is caught by the hero. Let the reader hear the creaking floorboards, watch the sweeping searchlight as it highlights the whole scene in detail, and feel the breath of the drooling ogre as it places the hero on the plate.

Not all stories need lots of suspense, but most can use at least a little. When you are finished your text, make at least one of your edits focus only on the aspect of suspense.

2.Tickled my funny bone
The World Health Organization has announced that dogs have not passed on Covid-19. Dogs previously held in quarantine can now be released. To be clear, WHO let the dogs out.

3. Interesting Web site
For 41 ways to create suspense, read this article. It has good footnotes you can also explore.

4. Writing prompt
Find a piece of writing, yours or someone else’s, that is not particularly suspenseful. Rewrite it with shorter words, sentences, and paragraphs. Then read both aloud. Can you feel the difference in your response to each version?

Alternatively, add suspense by slowing the action and adding detail.

I’d love to hear your results.

5. My Covid-19 offer to you
The coronavirus pandemic continues to surge in parts of the world and remains a threat to us all. That creates instability and extra stress in people, a sense of suspense world-wide.

What follows is a copy and paste from issue number 309. It’s still in force for you and anyone you choose to tell about it.

Along with the health threat hanging over the world, we are facing a huge financial hit. I’ve decided one thing I can do is to make quality editing less expensive during this trying time.

For subscribers to Editor’s Notes and their friends, I am suspending the fee for the sample edit to anyone using the code EN19 until I cancel this offer. I intend to keep this offer open as long as the world is in crisis with Covid-19 and its aftermath, so watch this space. I will give a warning here before I pull this offer. You can submit your writing sample at Be sure to click the link below the heading "Promotion Code" to get to the special form for a free sample edit. If you find yourself at a form before clicking the special link, scroll slowly back up the page, and you should see the link for the code (EN19).

But it gets better…

When I return an edited writing sample, I include quotes for the full range of my editing services. Until further notice, I will give a true quote, but I will not charge writers the full amount. I am discounting my services 50% for subscribers to Editor’s Notes and their friends. I will give a warning here before I pull this offer.

Feel free to pass this offer along to any writing friends you think may be interested. As long as anyone uses the code, I’ll honour the offer.

This is what I can offer you in this time of crisis. I hope it encourages you as you face possible illness and financial uncertainty.

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