Creating Suspense in a Story

Creating Suspense In A Story | Delaying Revelation: Do You Know How?

Hi! My name is Mrs Loh and I’m a teacher at Lil’ but Mighty. If you’re like me, you probably love receiving beautifully-wrapped presents for Christmas or on your birthday. There’s a good reason why we all love our gifts placed in boxes of all shapes and sizes and wrapped in attractive-looking wrapping paper. The excitement we feel each time we receive a gift is not just about what’s inside the box itself, but the thrill of guessing what is in the box!

We love the excitement of weighing our presents in our hands, turning them about and shaking them to try to guess what is inside. This is what we call suspense. Wrapping gifts in boxes creates that uncertainty and expectancy all at the same time. Does the box contain what I think it does? Will I like what is inside it? What if what I’ve been given is not what I want? Suspense is what makes us want to tear the wrapping paper apart and unbox what we have been given, in order to see what is inside.

Similarly, including a good amount of suspense in the story is what makes it interesting. A good story does not tell you everything at once. A good writer needs to hold back information and reveal it at just the right moment. This is called building dramatic tension. Bits and pieces of information are revealed at just the right moments in the story so that the reader is dying to know more about how the story will unfold. Today, I will be sharing with you just one of many ways in which you can be creating suspense in a story.

This simple technique is known as Delaying Revelation. In this technique, you hint and provide clues to the reader about what is going to be revealed before you actually say what it is. Below is an example of how this technique can be used:

Creating Suspense in a Story

What did you like about the above paragraph? Were you wondering what the writer had discovered while digging the soil? Did you try to guess what was in the box? Were you eager to find out whom the beady, menacing eyes belonged to? When the writer mentioned he noticed something else after the cockroaches had fallen out of the box, did you find yourself dying to read on to find out what it was that he had not noticed before? If you answered ‘yes’ to at least one of the above questions, then the writer has succeeded in getting you hooked on reading on.

Here is how the writer delayed revealing what it was (delaying revelation) effectively in the paragraph:

  • mentioning something half buried in the soil before saying what it was.

  • mentioning a rustling sound and hinting there was something in the box without saying what was inside it.

  • describing the cockroaches before confirming that the creatures were cockroaches

  • mentioning the mysterious other thing that fell out with the cockroaches and providing a tiny hint that it was a small diamond by describing it as a tiny, sparkling teardrop in the soil

Delaying revelation in this case made you want to find out what exactly the writer had discovered and even made you want to attempt to guess what the contents of the box were. Put simply, it creates suspense.

The next time you write, try to build some suspense in your story by experimenting with this technique. Do be careful not to overuse this though! Nobody likes too much suspense. Just the way pepper and salt add flavour to your plate of fried rice, adding too much of it ruins the dish. In the same way, using too much suspense and dramatic tension in your story will leave the reader of your story totally frustrated and annoyed. Just like when it comes to unboxing gifts, nobody enjoys spending the next fifteen minutes unwrapping it, not when one is dying to know what’s in the box!

If you like what I have shared or if you have other ways in which you build suspense in your stories, do share them with me by leaving a comment below!


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Ms. Elaine

I believe that language learning is not just about getting a good grade in school, it is empowering every child with the ability to express himself creatively and confidently. To me, the ability to use language to do just that is what makes us human. As a teacher, I always encourage every child I teach, to get out of his comfort zone in order to experiment with new writing techniques and to never be afraid of making mistakes because making mistakes often shows us how to do things even better!

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