In the last post, we looked at the first template of bestselling authors, the Character Introduction. If you haven’t read that one, here’s the link.
Today I want to look at the second secret template of bestselling authors, the Suspense Opening. The Suspense Opening template is probably the most popular among the bestselling authors, according to my ten-year research.
While the Character Introduction template offers numerous options for writers, the Suspense Opening is perhaps the most versatile of the Secret Templates. Bestselling authors from every genre consistently use it.
The major element in the suspense opening is (no suspense here!) suspense. Suspense opens a myriad of doorways into the story.
A definition of suspense is probably helpful at this point. For our purposes, suspense can be defined as the visceral emotion that fills the gap between wanting to know and knowing (Tweet it). In other words, suspense is a feeling triggered by specific literary techniques.
In the context of this template, one technique used by many bestselling authors is to begin a story with an event (and less often, dialogue) that hints at looming danger, threat, conflict, romance or mystery. The event – because of it’s unusual nature or inherent tension – pricks the readers curiosity immediately.
For example, my novel Dark Halo begins with an angel falling from the sky. The very next chapter opens with a strange, blinding yellow light flooding the bedroom of the protagonist. Both of these events are intended to draw the reader into the story through the emotion of suspense.
If done correctly, what’s happening in the reader’s mind as he or she reads the first page is this: “What’s going on here? Something’s up! I’ve got to keep reading to find out.” Those types of thoughts are tied to the desired emotions of curiosity, suspense and fascination.
Pitfalls of this template
- Opening too strong
- Opening too weak
- Confusing the reader