At CraftFest, the writing school component of ThrillerFest in New York City, novelist Gayle Lynds shared “The Seven Steps to Suspense” in fiction.
For one step, Lynds (pictured, via) focused on mood and description in a novel. She advised authors to always be aware of a story’s mood, warning that “writers sometimes ruin a book by adding a lighthearted mood at the wrong moment.”
Lynds also offered two pieces of advice for mastering the thriller mood. First, read and study 50 suspense novels. Then grab another twenty books from different genres (i.e. romance, historical, literary, etc.) and pay special attention to the opening scenes. You will soon recognize the specific mood of each genre.
Other suspense steps included advice about story and plot, structure, and the finale. Lynds advised writers to “use plot to buttress a story.” On structure, Lynds warned against inserting flashbacks until after you have hooked a reader into the story. As for the finale, she advised writers to”think of satisfaction” when writing it. She concluded: “you don’t have to resolve every problem of the book at the end, but you do have to resolve some.”
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