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Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel Revised and Expanded Edition, 2nd Edition by Sara Paretsky, Hallie Ephron

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Chapter 19

Writing Suspense

“A character who unknowingly carries a bomb around as if it were an ordinary package is bound to work up great suspense in the audience.”

—Alfred Hitchcock

Suspense happens when a scene becomes charged with anticipation. It’s the possibility of what might happen that keeps readers on the edge of their chairs.

Think of the classic suspense scene in the Alfred Hitchcock movie Suspicion. The Joan Fontaine character believes that her charming husband, played by Cary Grant, is an embezzler and a murderer who is going to kill her. There’s a long shot as Grant mounts the stairs, and then the camera focuses on the nightly glass of milk he carries up to her. Everyone in the audience is wondering: Is it poison? To heighten the ...

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