As I wrote my new suspense thriller, “A Moving Screen,” I realized that readers would connect with my characters one way or another. Either they despise them or empathize with them. Writing suspense requires reader empathy and reader concern. In other words, when a character is struggling to get what he or she most desires readers will become invested. Suspense will build to a thrilling climax.
The first sentence in “A Moving Screen, sets the stage:
“A hot date with death was imminent for Meredith Payne.”
From the beginning readers know that Meredith is in trouble. Because the next line is one word:
Apprehension is experienced right away. Why does Meredith have a date with death? And how is she going to die? The reader has no idea who Meredith Payne is. Maybe she deserves to die, maybe she doesn’t.
The first paragraph continues:
“Meredith’s appointment with death was being arranged by another person in the room,a dark figure whose facial features she could not see.”
Enter another character. Will the reader care about this dark figure? Now mystery has been introduced. Who is it? And why does he or she want to kill Meredith? Suspense begins to build. Danger approaches. And it becomes obvious that something terrible is about to happen.
The story continues as though the author is slowly pumping air into a balloon⎯more and more, until the balloon is filled. Then the author, through words and action, threatens to burst it.