3 Tricks to Build Suspense and Engage Your Readers

Giving out a link today that helped me solve a problem. It’s an article by Jeff Elkins at The Write Practice.

Three Tricks to Build Suspense and Engage Your Readers:

  1. A Race Against the Clock
  2. Hint at Solutions
  3. Connect the Unconnected

Today, this article helped me figure how to get out of a corner I’d written myself into. In my case, I went with all three: I added lawyer with a court order, so the detective only has X amount of time to examine to clue before it’s taken away (those clues will hint at solutions and connect the unconnected).


Periodic Sentences

Experimenting with rhetoric today, on a pass-through of a first draft. Here’s the original:

Inside is a labyrinth crammed with bookshelves, floor-to-ceiling, with corridors just wide enough to maneuver a book cart. The overhead lights cast yellow beams and shadows all over the place. The room smells of ink and paper. Wet ink, not just from the books. It’s secluded, it’s probably impossible to hear anything in hear from the outside, and there are no cameras.

Here’s the new version:

Inside a labyrinth, crammed floor-to-ceiling with bookshelves, corridors just wide enough to maneuver a cart, overhead lights that cast withered rays and wicked shadows, the aroma of dust and ink and disregard, tucked away treasures and slumbering secrets, the dreams and nightmares of prey and predator, secluded, silent, and shut off from the world, awaits me in his lair.


Ranks of Nobility

One of the things I notice from reading unpublished authors’ fantasy novels is that we Americans don’t have a lot of grounding in the ranks of nobility. Kings, dukes, barons: they are more than fancy titles. They actually mean something.

A full treatise on the subject would occupy many pages. This is primer.

  • Emperor or Empress: rules an empire of kingdoms
    Caesar is the Roman term for their emperor, from which Czar and Kaiser descend.
  • King or Queen: rules a kingdom
    Mahajari or Maharani is the Indian high king or queen.
  • Archduke or archduchess: rules an archduchy, considered a monarch in his or her own right.
    Also Grand Duke or Grand Duchess, basically the same.
  • Crown Prince: is the acknowledged heir to the throne
    The Prince of Wales is England’s Crown Prince; the Dauphin is the Crown Prince of France.
  • Prince or Princess: the sons, daughters, and grandchildren of the king or queen
    Prince is also a generic term for any ruler, particularly amongst themselves.
  • Duke or Duchess: rules a duchy
    There are eleven dukes in the modern England.
  • Marchess or Marchioness: is a ruler of a land that borders another country.
    Also Margrave in Germany. The title originally designated a military commander tasked with defending a border.
  • Count or Countess: rules a county
    In England, they are called Earls. There are about thirty earls in England.
  • Viscount or Viscountess: is either the ruler of a viscounty or the descendent of deputy of a count
    The French use Vicomte. England has three viscounts. In some kingdoms, viscount is not hereditary.
  • Baron or Baroness: the lowest rank of nobility, barons rule a barony
    England has almost sixty barons. This is the bulk of any kingdom’s noble class.
  • Knights or Dames: this a granted title, not hereditary, that elevates someone into peerage
    Military prowess is the surest way to become a knight, but it can and is granted for other services. The King or Queen may delegate his or her ability to knight people or not. Lesser nobles got in trouble for knighting people all the time.

When it Gets Dark

I have a few pieces I go to when I feel the weight of writing getting to me. It’s a tough job, to put to paper these dreams and visions, and to show them to a world that’s way too full of dreams and visions. They have so many to choose from that yours need to shine like the sun.

One is Melinda Mae, by Shel Silverstein.

Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae,
Who ate a monstrous whale?

That’s what writing feels like sometimes. The secret is small bites, lots of chewing, and persistence.


Head Hopping

Jami Gold, paranormal and urban fantasy author, has a great post about Head Hopping, and why it is bad. Give it a read.

If the POV is unclear or changes too frequently, the reader doesn’t form as strong of a connection to the characters.

Jami has an amazing author blog, with over 600 posts on the writing craft. Check it out when you have an afternoon to burn.