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Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot by Jane Cleland

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Chapter Four

Set the Stage

The atmosphere here isn’t like anywhere else.

—John Cena

Character- or Incident-Driven Decision Making

The most common way to create suspense is to let your reader share a character’s anxiety. It’s absorbing to follow a character who knows something bad is going to happen, especially if the details—the where and when and what—aren’t revealed right away. It’s the anticipation that’s the killer. Maybe someone is chasing you or stalking you or threatening you. You’re looking over your shoulder as you stumble toward a place you hope is safe. There’s a sense of foreboding that haunts your every move and builds with every step. Certain settings lend themselves to building this kind of fearsome suspense: Think of yourself ...

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