Sisters Susan Tuttle, Sue McGinty, Victoria Heckman and Mary Moses hit the road (so to speak) on November 11th for a panel discussion on Suspense at the NightWriter meeting. (Full disclosure: Susan and Sue are long-time NightWriter members, Susan is Prez.)
Susan led the lively discussion with an overview of suspense and read from her thriller, "Tangled Webs." Here's the gist of what she had to say. "Suspense is a combination of sympathetic chracters, high stakes situations, high probabilility of failure and uncertainty of outcome. And when you wrap up the story, don't take the easy way out; remember, the higher the suspense, the deeper the payoff must be."
Sue McGinty read from "Murder in Los Lobos" and discussed the importance of character development in suspense, especially in the early chapters. If we don't care about the protagonist, we won't have an emotional investment in her predicament.
Victoria Heckman discussed the connection of setting to suspense. Some locations are inherintly scary, like parking garages and dark jungles. She read from one of her series "K.O.'d in the Rift," where Katrina Ogden and her friend have been bound and are being marched up a dark, isolated and dangerous jungle path to the top of a set of waterfalls.
Mary Moses discussed the importance of pacing in suspense--too fast and too early the reader becomes weary, not enough, the writer loses and opportunity to lead the reader. She illustrated her points with a reading of her ghost story, "Stella's Search."