This decade readers demand instant drama from novels. A murder, a chase, a shocking incident on the first page. These are options external to the characters who the reader must identify with. Yes, how terrible to witness a murder, or struggle to discover the perpetrator.
But what about the drama inside? Whereas ACTION and INCIDENT characterise the thriller, suspense can build as effectively when the drama is inside the characters’ heads.
What is s/he going to think? How are they going to cope with the dilemma or confusion around them? Tension is not fast, maybe not shocking, but worry and guilt are both long burns and can remain with the reader long after the last page. I had a review recently that mentions re-thinking how this reader treats people.
I have attempted to build suspense and tension within my 2-book fiction, UNCOMMON RELATIONS. Terry is faced with an initially exciting encounter but it leads him into terrible difficulties. It causes tension between him and his shadowy wife, and with his good-hearted parents. His best mate is dismayed and sometimes derisive about Terry’s attempts to deal with his unexpected situation. But who can Terry trust?
There are moral dilemmas. Is transparency always for the best? How damaging can secrets be?