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LIKE MOST PEOPLE between the ages of 18 and 36, you're probably writing a suspense novel. With this program, you'll learn how to construct suspense-packed sentences, and how to "end" those sentences with edge-of-your-seat punctuation.

Onto the first lesson!

Lesson 1: General Suspense Tips
The opening sentence is essential to a great suspense novel, as it lets the reader know what the story's going to be about. I've included a sample opening sentence below, to show you how it's done right:

John crossed over to the living room and lit a cigarette.

Note how I have successfully introduced a character, a location, and an action. Now let's crank up the suspense:

John crossed over to the living room and lit a cigarette. Or did he?

Doubt sets in. Our reader begins to question everything he or she has come to believe. Who is this John character? Can we really trust him? How can we really trust anybody? Chilling questions. Luckily, you don't have to answer them. Remember: Great suspense lies in what you don't tell the reader.

Having placed the seed of doubt in our reader, we quickly move onto something else, distracting the hell out of them.

John then went to work and nothing happened.

This is a perfectly acceptable follow-up sentence, right? Wrong. This sentence isn't suspenseful at all. Let's try that follow-up sentence again:

John went to work. His day was a roller-coaster ride of intrigue and mystery.

Did you see what made the "right" sentence suspenseful and what made the "wrong" sentence utterly worthless? If not, you might be making the same mistakes and not even realizing it.

TIP: Try practicing writing in a mirror. Watch yourself as you write. What are you doing wrong?

Lesson 2: Writing The First Chapter

Read the following opening paragraph and try to locate where the suspense is coming from:

The gunman adjusted his gay hat as he powled the misty ooftops, knowing his pey would show soon. Sweat stuck to his shit as he contemplated what he must do. The one-eyed man who had killed his fathe would finally pay the pipe.

An excellent opening to a great suspense novel. Where are all the R’s? Is it a typographical error? Does the writer simply not like R’s? Or are there mysterious deeds at play, and are the R’s somehow involved? All of these questions spiral through a reader's mind as they find themselves in the taut grip of suspense.

In the next paragraph, we release this grip:

The one-eyed man had stolen all the R’s.

Goosebumps, yes? If you felt a cathartic release while reading that sentence, you're not alone. Why? Because that was great suspense.

A simple lesson can be gleaned from this: a suspense novel should start with a very suspenseful opening paragraph then release the suspense in the second. After this you just write the rest of your book. The reader knows what kind of powerhouse suspense writing to expect, and your work is done.

TIP: Lightning is so suspenseful it's not even funny, so always use it for everything. Lightning makes the reader notice whatever happened before the lightning, so also remember to put in a lot of suspense before the lightning crashes. Just pack it in there, no one will mind.

Lesson 3: Ending Your Suspense Novel
A good suspense novel must have a surprise twist ending to leave the reader completely dumbfounded. If you've done your job well up to this point, then the reader should have no clue what's happening, who your characters are, or what it is they're so worried about. Time for the final turn of the screw to make them jump out of their seats! Observe:

John and Janet had finally solved the murder. It had been some other guy all along. They were sitting down to a delicious lasagna that Janet had baked when suddenly—

How would YOU end the tale? Write out your ending now. Then read my endings to see why yours is wrong.


— Janet's head exploded! Janet had been injected with a toxin that explodes heads. John stopped eating his lasagna.

Or did he?

The End


a big bomb dropped on the house, killing both of them, but mostly Janet. The bomb had been launched in Iraq because of a war there, but the guidance system had shorted out, so it went over to Janet's place instead and flew right into her head. John had a mouthful of lasagna at the time and was flabbergasted.

Everyone else was flabbergasted, too. "We never saw that coming," they said.

It turned out that John's last name was Saunders. Nobody had ever known that.

The End


— a murderer walked in the house! "Oh no, a murderer!" John said as he stopped eating his lasagna. The murderer chased John all through the house and murdered him while Janet escaped. She ran outside and flagged down a policeman who was driving by.

"There's a murderer in my house!" Janet said.

"He's not in your house," said the policeman. "He's ME!" Holy shit! The policeman was the murderer! He murdered Janet.

The End

More literary laffs:
Elizabeth Wurtzel: A Life in Dust Jackets
Mauve Gloves and Manual Typewriters
Updiking the Ante

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