In the fourth in a series of guest articles on writing and getting published, Sunday Times bestselling author GILLIAN McALLISTER looks at five ways to add tension to your novel.
Ask a question and don’t answer it
I like to raise the question on the first page and answer it on the last. To me, this is what forms the structure of a novel, whether the question is ‘what secret is this character keeping?’ or ‘how is this character going to resolve their tricky situation?’ If you can figure out your novel’s central question, you have figured out its hook. Then, do everything you can not to answer it until the closing pages, be that placing obstacles in the way of the solution or problems that make it worse.
Figure out what the worst possible thing to happen to your main character is
Create an impossible situation
Answer some questions along the way
There has to be give and take when reading a novel. It’s not fair on the reader to ask one question and answer it at the end (contrary to what I say above) because they will have to read four hundred pages otherwise before getting any answers. I liken it to Hansel and Gretel. You need to breadcrumb the reader to the ending, leaving little clues and little pieces of information to keep them reading.
Gillian McAllister is a former lawyer and Sunday Times Top 10 bestselling author of Just Another Missing Person, Everything But The Truth, Anything You Do Say, No Further Questions, The Evidence Against You, How to Disappear and That Night.
She lives out in the countryside with her husband, son and dog. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @gillianmauthor. She also blogs at www.gillianmcallister.com.