How To Write Suspense In Stories

Shutterstock / Robert Kneschke © Boy and a father reading books under a blanket fort

Writing suspense in stories can be associated with any story genre.

Creating suspense revolves around the reader; you want to draw them into a story and keep them engaged and guessing as the plot unfolds.

Here are some simple ways to do that in your “Friend” stories.

Strong characters

Create multi-layered characters. Your girl-next-door character likes the guy across the street, but he appears standoffish.

Maybe there’s a reason for his behaviour that at first isn’t apparent. Or maybe the heroine isn’t as perfect as initially portrayed, and she has to learn a valuable lesson along the way.

Adding complexity to characters will create intrigue as to the possible outcomes.

This leads me to the next element of suspense . . .


A conflict of interests or desires makes for good reading. Take a romance as an example. Two characters seem ideally suited for each other, but they are suddenly faced with a big decision that will rock their relationship.

This suspense can be heightened through the course of the story, or it can be short-term, piquing reader interest and adding an element of mystery or tension.

This occurs in our serials, when instalments finish on a cliff-hanger.

With serials, you want to leave readers with a high level of expectancy, so they can’t wait to find out what happens next. That’s suspense at its best.


Pacing is another essential element of suspense. As a writer, you want to build up to major events and character decisions. But don’t let your story become an adrenaline-fueled race. Create peaks and troughs for the characters.

Raising the stakes is all well and good, but give your characters – and readers – time to breathe. Stories, and especially serials, are character journeys, made up of different levels of development.


Hint at what is to come. Raise questions in the readers’ minds. But don’t give the game away – you want to keep readers absorbed as to possible outcomes.

What helps here is creating the right atmosphere for scenes. An impending storm conjures up restless, melancholic skies, and this might reflect how a character feels.

Together, these elements will hopefully add suspense in your stories, making your story a page-turning, memorable read.

Read more writing tips from the “Friend”.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.