How I write suspense scenes is to put myself there, in the moment. Suspense writing is a very delicate art form. When done correctly, the reader should be feeling a mix of emotions. Everything from fear and hatred to slight relief with a bit of worry. They should finish the scene or chapter out of breath and eagerly awaiting the next, reading through the fingers of the hand covering their eyes.
Suspense is a class by itself. As a genre, it is one of my favorites. However, suspense should be in every genre; in every book. There should be some element that makes me, as a reader, want to turn the page.
When writing horror or thrillers, as I do, suspense is the right hand. Sure the scares and screams make the book, but its the overwhelming feeling of dread and what will happen next that suspense brings to the mix.
So how do I do it?
Very very simple actually: I listen to my character.
I pretend that my character is right in front of me and whatever is going on in the scene just happened to him. I pretend he just escaped whatever horrors he just went through and found me as he ran through the woods. He looks over his shoulder, bated for breath. His eyes are full of worry and fear and tears are dripping from his chin. He tries to tell me what happened to him and I eagerly soak it up, trying to keep up with his frantic pace as he details everything for me. I listen and speed write before the bad guy shows up to catch us both.
I become worried and fearful with him, looking over his shoulder, too.
When he is done with his tale, I have several questions for him. I ask but he doesn’t always answer. No matter what happens, he always leaves one question unanswered. That question is one that I simply can not live without knowing the answer to. All he can tell me is that he might answer it the next time we meet.
Then he runs off, screaming towards the next scene.
I give chase.