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The 6 Elements of Movement and Suspense


September 12, 2013 by Jen Cudmore

Another important aspect of writing is to balance conflict. I found Elizabeth Lyon’s book Manuscript Makeover especially helpful on this topic.

The author lists six elements for creating movement and building suspense.

  • Actions (outer and inner): Characters must have a certain amount of strength and initiative to propel a story. They must physically and mentally take steps toward a goal. These actions must be varied and balanced to make the story flow well.
  • Reactions: Characters respond to situations through movement, thoughts, and emotions. Again, be sure they are balanced. The author recommends ensuring there is action on every page of the story.
  • Emotions: Feelings contribute to the flow of a scene. Constantly changing emotions builds intensity. Without them, the story has a mechanical feel to it.
  • Reversals: Readers learn what to expect as they read. One way to keep them interested is to do the unexpected with a character or a scene, as long as isn’t extreme.
  • Subtext: Every story has characters with hidden agendas. The trick is to convey them subtly in a way that builds tension. The author provides a nice list of sources that make good subtext.
  • Raising Questions: When a reader picks up a book, they immediately make a list of questions about the story. The author’s job is to keep them wanting to know more. This means information must be given out little by little. However, the answers must be drawn out in such a way as to keep the reader guessing but not frustrated.



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