aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

One quick trick to turn up the tension

I'm having fun right now, writing a YA thriller with two alternating third person points of view. Having more than one viewpoint character is one of the easiest ways to turn up the tension. And every book needs tension, needs something that will make you want to turn the page, whether its a thriller or romance or mainstream or fantasy.

Basically, you end every chapter with a cliffhanger. Like, "When he opened the door, John couldn't believe what he saw." End of chapter. The next chapter begins from a different character's point of view (POV), say Mary's. But meanwhile, the reader is wondering what John saw. The reader races ahead, wanting to find out. You end the second chapter with Mary doing something that is going to arouse emotion and curiousity - planning her own death, slipping a knife into her pocket, picking up the phone to make a phone call she dreads. So now your read has two things to wonder about.

In mysteries and thrillers, one of the viewpoint characters might be the bad guy. So the reader knows what the bad guy is planning, but the innocent protagonist doesn't.

You can also end chapters with a cliffhanger even if the POV never changes. Pick up one of the Goosebumps books. You'll see why kids devoured them. Pretty much every chapter ends with a cliffhanger. Many of them are cheesy - like a boy sees a sea monster. End of chapter. Beginning of next chapter - sea monster is revealed to be little sister wearing mask in water.

Here are some of my current chapter endings:

But she couldn't see the man who was kidnapping her or where they were going. Because for the last three years, Cheyenne had been blind.
Then Griffin pressed the barrel against her temple. “Shut up or I'll shoot you,” he said calmly. [Note - normally I avoid adverbs, but the next chapter begins from Cheyenne's POV, and she thinks that Griffin is shouting.]
Griffin pulled the blanket loosely over her face, then put the car in gear and drove on. As he did, he unconsciously rubbed his fingertips together, the ones that had touched her lips. [A little bit of foreshadowing here - will these two join forces?]
Without giving herself time to think, Cheyenne swung her hand in a short sharp arc that ended when the glass hit the edge of the bureau.

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Tags: cliffhangers, suspense
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