. . . continued from Part 1
But what I do know from the beginning with my suspense novels is that the danger level…the impending threat…the sense of menace—and malice…must be omnipresent. It can slink off-screen for a few minutes here and there, but the ominous undercurrents must always ripple just below the surface.
So how did I do that in Point of Danger?
First, let me tell you how I didn’t do it—with a high-action, high-adrenaline storyline in which the characters are in physical danger in almost every chapter. My characters are not shot at, thrown off cliffs, dumped into raging rivers, locked in airless rooms, buried alive, tied up, chased, exposed to fire—you name it—in every chapter.
While there are moments of physical danger in my books, I don’t have a life-threatening event in every scene. For me, psychological suspense is more compelling. Think Alfred Hitchcock versus James Bond. In my books, there’s a steady build to an often-explosive ending.
In Point of Danger, I use three specific technique that are part of my standard tool kit for a suspense novel to keep the danger level front and center.
First, I include multiple points of view in addition to the hero and heroine. I take readers into the heads of several characters, all of whom have a potential motive for wanting Eve gone. So, I keep the audience guessing about who’s behind the threats all the way through the book.
Second, I try to end every scene with a foreshadowing statement. A suggestion that more danger is ahead.
Here’s an example:
“Because confident as she was in her ability to stand up to intimidation, it would be comforting to have someone like Brent in her corner if by chance today’s prank morphed into a much more ominous threat.”
This plants the notion in the readers’ minds that the prank probably will morph into something more ominous—and compels them to keep reading to see what danger lies ahead.
In the next example, the police think they may have found the culprit. Everything fits. But there’s a glitch.
“The crime scenes were clean and there were no witnesses. There was no absolute proof he was their man.
Without that, he could walk.
Meaning Eve’s life could still be in danger.”
Again, I’ve planted a seed of doubt in readers’ minds to induce them to keep reading…and to suggest they shouldn’t let their guard down.
I use the same technique with the romance aspect of the book, raising questions at the end of those scenes that keep the tension high, making readers’ wonder whether Eve and Brent will manage to overcome the personal obstacles that could sabotage their relationship.
So, I use foreshadowing to sustain suspense on two levels—professional and personal—throughout the book
Finally, I choose action verbs that evoke danger whenever possible. My characters freeze…suck in a breath…snatch…bolt…leap…sprint…bound…skid. And that’s just in the first two pages. Powerful, action-oriented verbs can generate a sense of danger faster than anything else.
And that, my friends, is how I generate and sustain suspense in Point of Danger. I hope you’ll give the book a read and see for yourself that it’s possible to create a taut, gripping story without putting physical danger on every page.
Because the scariest place of all is the villain’s mind.
Irene Hannon is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than 50 contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels, including Dangerous Illusions, Hidden Peril, and Dark Ambitions, as well as the Men of Valor, Heroes of Quantico, Guardians of Justice, and Private Justice series.
In addition to her many other honors, she is a three-time winner of the prestigious RITA Award from Romance Writers of America. She is also a member of RWA’s elite Hall of Fame and has received a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews for her entire
body of work. Each of her suspense novels have been ECPA bestsellers, and her books often appear on the Publishers Weekly bestseller list.
Learn more at www.irenehannon.com.