Adding Suspense — Features from Atonement, TN

It’s Moving Too Slow — What Shall I Do?

Hamster head xray

As I grow my characters, and layer the elements of a new story, I’m always afraid that it is moving to slowly — because I’m doing precisely those things rather than something more exciting.  How do I cultivate both characters and suspense, and work on more than one level at a time, and still make the pages turn quickly? Well, here are some things I try to do.  (And hopefully it works!)

My Writing ProcessRed Dragon Eye

One way I try to create suspense from the outset of my novels is by always beginning with a prologue that is either magical (particularly if I’m writing urban fantasy) or is told from the point of view of an arch villain (for “high” fantasy).

The “Atonement” books begin with Lilith the calico witnessing something supernatural.

(Fairy EyeLest anyone think the novels are about a cat, I’ll explain that the Lilith character came to me as a device. I apologize to those of you who have already heard me say this.

Because it is told by my heroine, Ralda Lawton, from time to time I needed to use a character who could go about unnoticed, and witness things that Ralda wouldn’t be able to know.  That led me to the cat.  I was concerned that Lilith wouldn’t be well received. As it turned out, she was rather popular. )

So Lilith bears witness to the magical prologues that begin each of the Atonement books.  But how else to build suspense as I go?

Cat Eyes Watching

That is part of what I’ve been working on this week.  After I’ve written a good bit, I go back to the start and consider where else I might add something, some little detail that makes the reader at least a bit uneasy.

Artist, Cheryl Rose Hall

Beira; Artist: Cheryl Rose Hall

A positive side-effect came from that process this week — it better developed a minor character — one of the new supernatural beings that show up in Atonement in Bloom.  I think it also helped define part of the story.

In case you’d like to see something from my novel in progress, here’s a tidbit from the prologue.  Lilith gets an eye-full.

 

Snippet from the prologue of “Atonement in Bloom” 

Lilith in snow

The growl of a great beast sent Lilith jumping down from the rock wall and into the concealment of juniper bushes that were long ago left to run wild.  She trembled as the rumbling growl drew closer.  

“It must be gigantic,” Lilith thought.  

Lilith scented the air, feeling a bit confused.  She was unable to precisely define the scent.  Yet she had not mistaken the sound; some strange beast was out there. Black-GOLD_dragon-cat Eye

Magic, the thought sprang to her mind.  She laid back her ears, suddenly that idea made her more irritated than afraid.

The rumbling continued and its eyes rapidly came into view.  It had to be huge based on the size of the eyes and how far apart they were set.  Four eyes, she realized in astonishment.  It had two big wide-set eyes that glowed like white fire in the night.  Just below those were two more eyes, smaller and closer together, which gave off an ill-boding yellowish glow.

***

If you haven’t yet started to feel like someone might be watching you… Here’s a recipe for some cupcakes that might make you ask “Who’s there?” 

From “Like Mother Like Daughter

Owl Cupcakes…

Owl Cupcakes

 

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Mega hugs!

Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

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