O'Reilly logo

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot

Book Description

Enthrall Your Readers!

Suspense is one of the most powerful tools a writer has for captivating readers--but it isn't just for thrillers. From mainstream fiction to memoir, suspense creates the emotional tension that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. Mastering Suspense, Structure, & Plot is your hands-on guide to weaving suspense into your narrative. Award-winning author Jane K. Cleland teaches you how to navigate genre conventions, write for your audience, and build gripping tension to craft an irresistible page-turner.

Inside, Cleland will show you how to:
  • Implement thirteen no-fail techniques to construct an effective plot and structure for your story
  • Use Cleland's Plotting Road Map to add elements of suspense like twists, reversals, and moments of danger
  • Write subplots with purpose
  • Improve your descriptions, character development, sentence structure, and more
Packed with case studies, exercises, and dozens of examples from best-selling authors, Mastering Suspense, Structure, & Plot is the key to writing suspenseful, engaging stories that leave your readers wanting more.

------
"Indispensable! For newbie authors and veterans alike, this terrific how-to is your new go-to. Don't write your book without it--it's a treasure." --Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony, Macavity and Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author

Table of Contents

  1. Praise for Mastering Suspense, Structure, & Plot
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright Page
  4. Dedication and Acknowledgments
    1. Dedication
    2. Acknowledgements
  5. About the Author
  6. Foreword
  7. Introduction
  8. Part One: Thinking
    1. Chapter One: Know Your Readers
      1. Write for Your Readers
      2. Understand Your Readers’ Expectations
      3. Identify Reader Expectations
      4. The Narrative Question
    2. Chapter Two: Structure is King
      1. Frame Your Plot With Structure
      2. Choose From Two Reliable Options
      3. Choose Multiple Perspectives or a Single POV
      4. Add Enhancements to Increase Tension
      5. Choose Your Structure
    3. Chapter Three: Jane's Plotting Road Map
      1. Find Fresh Ideas
      2. Select Your TRDs
      3. Determine the Appropriate Pace
    4. Chapter Four: Set the Stage
      1. Character- or Incident-Driven Decision Making
      2. Adapting a Gothic Novel
      3. Less Is More
      4. Choosing Settings Based on Genre
      5. Sensual References Bring Your Setting to Life
      6. People Interacting With Places
    5. Chapter Five: Layer in Two Subplots
      1. Subplots With Purpose
      2. Use Jane’s Plotting Road Map to Ensure You Maintain a Suspenseful Pace
      3. Use Thematic and Recurring Subplots in Series
    6. Chapter Six: Isolate Your Protagonist—and Everyone Else
      1. Isolation, a Tool of Suspense
      2. Isolation Overview
      3. When Isolation Is Central to the Plot
      4. Physical Isolation: You’re All Alone
      5. Social Isolation: You Feel All Alone
      6. Isolation Drives Characterizations
      7. Writing Emotional Truth
      8. Metaphors Illuminate Isolation
    7. Chapter Seven: The Devil Made Me Do It
      1. Understanding Human Nature
      2. Capitalizing on Human Nature
      3. Structural Red Herrings
      4. Confounding Readers With Appearance Miscues
      5. The Bandwagon Fallacy
      6. The Halo and Devil Effects
      7. Incorporating Details Befuddles Readers
      8. Using a Character’s Expertise
      9. You’re an Expert on You
      10. Integrating Red Herrings
  9. Part Two: Writing
    1. Chapter Eight: Add Surprise—Sparingly
      1. The Jack-in-the-Box Effect
      2. Everyday Surprises
      3. The Anatomy of Surprise
      4. Set Up Surprises
      5. The Difference Between Surprise and Suspense
      6. Add Drama Through Action
      7. A Three-Step Process
    2. Chapter Nine: Get into Your Readers' Heads
      1. Stability vs. Confusion and Betrayal
      2. A Journey of Discovery
      3. Identify Knowledge Gaps
      4. Write Based on a Deep Understanding
    3. Chapter Ten: Whisper, Don't Shout
      1. Maximize Sound’s Impact Through Quiet
      2. The Science of Sound: Connecting to Readers
      3. Describing Sound: Language Choices
    4. Chapter Eleven: Illuminate Fear and Dread
      1. What Scares Your Characters?
      2. The Positive Side of Fear
      3. When Your Readers Know More Than the Characters
      4. A Plot Based on Fear or Dread
      5. Writing Fear and Dread
    5. Chapter Twelve: Reveal Answers Slowly
      1. Inspire Reader Curiosity
      2. Unreliable Narrators Create Suspense
      3. Let Suspense Linger
      4. Three Techniques to Set Up Slow Reveals
    6. Chapter Thirteen: Write Sentences That Work
      1. Say What You Mean, Clearly
      2. Two Considerations
      3. Flashbacks
      4. Shorten Sentences to Add Tension
      5. Let Your Voice Shine Through
      6. Write Purposefully
    7. Chapter Fourteen: Conclusion
      1. End With Forethought: The Triple X Strategy
      2. Illuminate the Way and Readers Will Step Into Your World
      3. Put the Tools to Work
      4. Think, Write, Revise (In That Order)
      5. Final Thoughts
  10. Afterword
    1. The Values of Writing