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By Cynthia Swanson
Last week Benjamin Percy, author of the just-released thriller The Dead Lands, taught a workshop at Lighthouse on adding suspense to fiction and memoir.
I bet you wish you’d been there.
Damn, you’re thinking. I knew that workshop be great. I knew I should have signed up.
And now you’ll never know what Percy said.
Or will you?
What makes a suspenseful plot arc? In all stories, Percy claims, characters need to undergo an internal transformation – but the best stories have a dynamic mechanism to make that transformation happen. Think about Dorothy: at first, she wants to go over the rainbow. Ultimately, she realizes there’s no place like home. The journey through Oz provides the vehicle for Dorothy’s internal transformation.
So how do you pull off suspense in your story? How do you ensure readers continue to turn the pages?
By keeping a few things in mind:
And what shouldn’t you do?
Great, you’re thinking. And can you give me an example of a book with a well-written, page-turning plot arc?
Sure, Percy would say. Channel your preschool self. Reread There’s a Monster at the End of This Book.
Got it? Good. Now go write it.
Cynthia Swanson is a longtime Lighthouser and the author of The Bookseller: A Novel (Harper, March 2015).