A critical element of a mystery novel or any novel is tension both on the part of the characters and the readers. Without tension, there’s no excitement and no reason to turn the page and continue reading. The author’s job is to figure out ways to add tension to stories. Here are 7 suggestions that will add tension to any kind of novel.
1. Create a sympathetic character. Readers want good things to happen to an appealing character. You want your reader to continually worry and fret about bad things happening to the character so…put that appealing character in major and minor jeopardy repeatedly throughout the book.
2. Tension is more effective with a background of contrast. Don’t fill every scene with white-knuckle tension. Throw in some less tense narrative type scenes to increase the impact of the more dramatic scenes.
3. Use a Normal setting. Quiet neighborhood, children playing, people going about their business, laughter, chatter. While a psycho leisurely walks down the street looking for a victim.
4. Flashbacks should contain tension. They should not meander backward in time.
5. Add surprise or twist or reversal midway in your novel, another murder, the appearance of an unexpected character, the disappearance of a character, an unexpected truth about a character or event.
6. Utilize the scale of Fear: The scale describes the escalation of fear beginning with Uneasiness, Awareness, Fright, Panic, Terror
7. Slow down the story at a crucial moment: Suspense happens in the stillness of your story, in the gaps between the action sequences, in the moments between the worry that something dreadful is about to happen and its actual occurrence. Increase tension by using description to delay a horrible story event.
Keeping these suggestions in mind, use your creative juices to add tension to your scenes and your book will be a hit.