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Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot by Jane Cleland

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Chapter Eleven

Illuminate Fear and Dread

Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.

—Ray Bradbury

What Scares Your Characters?

Some people feel mildly fretful day in and day out. Other people endure a more debilitating level of anxiety. Still others live in fear, and for some, the level of fearfulness and apprehension is so severe, they experience dread. Inherent in the concept of dread is perceived inevitability. If a fear cannot be vanquished, it becomes dread.

Readers experience dread alongside characters. The shared dread becomes a kind of mythical creature, a chimera or worse that works to boost suspense even when the outcome is already known. Despite the certainty, you feel the characters’ highs and lows, ...

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