467 Phrases to Help You Write Anticipation and Suspense

anticipation suspense boxes


Magnetic Energy to Your Story With These 2 Emotions

Anticipation and Suspense Magnifies Tension


Donald Mass in his book Writing the Breakout Novel says we should have tension on every page. When John and I first heard him say that at a seminar, we asked ourselves how could we do that?

If you are asking yourself the same question, just keep reading. We will show you several ways to increase tension on every page, using anticipation and suspense.

Write A Novel With Punch

cats anticipation, suspense

When you plan our novel, you probably think of exciting events. Some writers call these plot points. These thrilling scenes are full of tension.

The question is how do you create tension between your plot points? That’s what we will to show you.

Have you ever read a story where the events were only loosely connected? Were you disappointed? Did it seem like the characters didn’t have a destination?

When readers anticipates something is going to happen, they get involved and stay involved in your story.

If you don’t prime your reader with multiple possibilities (Suspense) the story loses its punch.

Without anticipation or suspense, the climax has little impact.

Your reader must believe that your characters are going to end up in a different place than when they started (physically, mentally, or emotionally). Otherwise, why should they read your book?

Anticipation, Suspense Increases Anxiety

Let’s dive in.

Anticipation and Suspense Reveals Character 


reflection anticipation , suspense


Here’s our first point.     

Your character’s expectations shape their behavior.

Personality is revealed by their reaction to the expected event. If they imagine pain, they will figure out a way to prevent it. If they imagine success, they will put time and effort into making it happen.

Anticipation generates many different emotions, some of them conflicting. You must communicate these feelings using your character’s actions, your setting, and your character’s dialogue.

You must capture the energy of anticipation and put that energy into words. That’s what creates suspense for your reader.

Give details about your character’s preparation for the upcoming event. How does your antagonist or protagonist prepare for the imminent challenge?

Brief thoughts will not be effective. Creating a train of thoughts will allow your reader to truly understand what your characters are thinking and feeling.

Consider an internal monologue or dialogue with a friend or family member. Explain your character’s motivation. Why are they reacting this way? Anything that will increase the suspense.

The more your reader knows the more invested they will be in the outcome. Your reader will be curious if the result will be what your character imagines or something completely different.

Here's an Example 

 Let’s say the event (plot point) you are planning is a romantic date:

You write about the girl’s anticipation. She excitedly talks to her girlfriend. She prepares by searching her wardrobe for the perfect outfit. Maybe trying on several sets of clothes before deciding. She must choose how to wear her hair (up or down). Her makeup needs to be perfect. She frets about everything.

On the other hand, the man must decide where to take her on the date. Which tie to wear. Should he buy flowers? Maybe roses or something less formal, like daisies.

All this preparation and anxiousness prepares your reader for the event. If done right your reader, like your characters, will be hoping for the best.

And yet a part of us knows; nothing like this ever comes off like we expect. This leads to curiosity and suspense.

Will things go as planned or veer off in a completely new direction?

Observing the planning, allows your reader to become involved with what happens. The main purpose of the anticipation, suspense is to get your reader to care.

The emotional groundwork you build should lead to something significant (a plot point, turning point, or a major shift in a relationship).

Expectations instantly add an extra dose of suspense.

The Glue That Holds Your Story Together

puzzle anticipation , suspense

Anticipation, suspense is the glue that connects your events together. As your characters prepare or refuse to prepare for an up-coming event your reader feels the tension mount.

Allow your readers to get to know your characters through their excitement or fear. Strong emotions keep your readers engrossed in your story and curious about your character’s futures.

Your reader’s curiosity builds from open ended possibilities. Explain what could happen if certain tasks are not completed. You must arouse excitement or curiosity about the outcome.

You want your reader eager and inquisitive about what will ultimately happen to your character. In other words, you want the reader to care.

Rev Fred B. Craddock

"Anticipation is probably the human spirits’ greatest source of pleasure, often exceeding that provided by fulfillment of one’s anticipation"

Suspense, anticipation can’t be created by a single event. Those feelings must develop gradually.

Connect your plot points so one event leads to the next. Show your reader how each move your character makes leads to the next incident.

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anticipation suspense boxes
  • Obviously, as soon as the event happens you need to begin moving forward to the next event.
  • Keeping your characters aware of the future will keep your reader’s anticipating the forward movement of your story.
  • What does your character speculate will happen next?
  • What outcome do they desire most?
  • What do they fear most?
  • What new assumptions have they made?
  • Keep this in mind as you write, tension increases best when it rises gradually. You must orchestrate your reader’s emotions one layer at a time.
  • time for change
    What Comes After the Anticipation or Suspense?

  •            What Now?
  • Once the event occurs the suspense or anticipation are over. Show what happens after the event.
  • How does the event change your characters?
  • Do they change directions?
  • Do they gain a new perspective?
  • Discover insights about themselves?
  • Remember each event (plot point) should produce both internal and external changes.
  • Think about it, if the plot point does not change your characters, then why is the event in the story? Each event should have an emotional impact on your characters.
  • The anticipation, suspense, of the event, and the outcome must all move your story forward!
  • Let's Wrap it Up

  • Anticipation and suspense are magical feelings. Now you have the tools to use these devises in your writing.
  • The power comes from making your audience care about your characters and wonder what will happen next.
  • You want your reader invested, wondering whether things will go as planned or veer off in a completely new direction.

  • Happy Writing
  • John & Patty  @2021 Writingagreatbook.com
  • wrap it up

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