Category: News

authonomyblogheaderBack in December, went live for the first of a series of genre specific writing workshops. I joined bestselling authors Meg Gardiner and Claire Seeber, literary agent Camilla Wray from Darley Anderson, my colleagues David Brawn and Kate Bradley, and an enthusiastic bunch of writers for the day at HC Towers.

My workshops tackled ‘suspense.’ I asked my groups to think about the films, TV shows and books that have successfully created the kind of nail biting suspense they’d like to emulate in their writing and what techniques they used. We came up with the list below – can you think of anything to add to it?

• Create a protagonist the reader cares about
• Create a fully-developed villain and explore their motivations and character. The reader has to believe in and fear this person
• Protagonist and villain should be evenly matched
• A crisis event to hook the reader and keep the story going
• State what’s at stake early on in the story and keep the stakes high
• Establish a ticking clock
• Create tension and then release it
• Danger more threatening when your character is isolated
• Chase and fight scenes
• Be unpredictable

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Id like to know which movies were listed here. Its a great concept to think about! The two examples I find most intriguing are – creating/releasing tension and danger in isolation!

  2. Hi Gus,

    Good point about the McGuffin, classic stuff. If you go on the link I’ve put below, this is a really interesting talk by JJ Abrams (Lost, Star Trek etc) discussing how tension and mystery operate. A lot of it, as I’m sure you’ll be aware, is rehashed Hithcock, but he’s a great talker. Check it out if you’ve got spare time.

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