As I declared to the audience at a panel on Suspense during last weekend’s Dahlonega Literary Festival, I’m a worrier by nature.Just before the panel discussion: “On the Edge of Our Seats: The Element of Suspense in Fiction” I’m wearing gray, seated between two gentlemen authors.
The panel took place on Saturday at 4:00. All day, I had greeted and met readers who stopped by my table to ask about and buy my suspense novel, UNDERWATER. I’d also met many of the other authors. It was a beautiful day in Dahlonega, which only added to the cheerful mood of just about everyone.
The panel’s format was different from what I’d expected. I had imagined that (primarily) audience members would ask questions (“this question is for so-and-so author:” etc.). Instead, the moderator asked almost all of the (very good) questions, and each of us seven panelists then had the opportunity to respond. I hadn’t been able to attend any of the day’s earlier panels (if I had, I’d have known about the format). Néanmoins – nevertheless – I wasn’t too disconcerted.
First, we introduced ourselves individually. Then the moderator posed a question and asked the person on one end of the table to start the responses. Though each of us had authored a book(s) containing the element of suspense, our works represented a variety of genres, none overlapping (much), so we had different perspectives, and styles. No one’s book was similar to my novel, and I was excited to have the chance to talk about it.
As I said during one of my responses, since I’m a worrier, writing suspense seems natural. I pay careful attention to pacing. I start with the characters and the issues they face (the conflict). As I write, I strive to keep the reader on the edge of his/her seat, worrying about what will happen next. I plan for the tension to rise as the story unfolds, as things go from bad to worse. I want the reader to be a worrier about my characters.
It takes some work, and I
worry about focus on it. But if you’re a worrier by nature, it’s really not that complicated.