So why do I bring this up? Cheap therapy, you say? Well, maybe. But I really was just trying to preface the next Suspense Technique:
The whole expectations thing is pretty universal thing (maybe not to the degree I experience), but by and large when people set their hopes on something and it doesn't happen, we hurt or we get angry or in some cases, we try to get even. Heh, heh, heh.
When things don't meet our expectations, we get FRUSTRATED. Folks, this is the heart and soul of suspense. And not just at the beginning to hook the reader, but throughout the story to keep them hooked.
Here's what you do. You make it clear that your main character has some kind of goal he/she wants to achieve. Then you put every obstacle you can think of in the path of sed character to frustrate his/her efforts. You get to play God with the "smite" button as in the famed Far Side cartoon. Remember the golden rule of fiction: Just when you think it couldn't possibly get any worse for the main character, you make it worse.
But be careful. You can overdo this one. Every so often you throw your main character (and the reader) a bone. You let them have just a taste of fulfillment. And then…you yank the rug our from under them, and make them turn the page.
Here's an example:
There she was: Alison Wingate. She always walked home from school with the same group of her girlfriends. But at the corner of Maple St. and Elvis Lane, she always bid her friends a fond adieu. Six months, Bryce had planned it--since the beginning of summer. He'd had a crush on Alison since the 7th grade. Now they were seniors. And she'd finally dumped that meathead football player, Jake Thunder--butt or whatever his name was. Now was Bryce's chance. Every aspect of his plan had been meticulously mapped out. Nothing could go wrong.
Except that it could. Alison turned the corner, and Bryce stepped out into the sidewalk with the dozen exotic purple roses he'd ordered. But when Alison turned the corner, she wasn't alone. One of her girlfriends was still with her. Oh, no! Not Becky Snodgrass! Bryce looked at the roses and up the sidewalk to Alison and Becky. What if Becky thought they were for her? She would think that too. Becky had slipped him a most disturbing note during newspaper class. Bryce freaked. But what could he do? He saw Alison look up. Did she see him? He wasn't sure.
Roses and all, he dove into the bushes…and put his elbow right into a hornets nest. The black and white bees streamed out in an angry flood. He felt their stings even as he tore himself free from the bushes. Screaming, he came through the other side of the hedge, saw sparkling water and leaped for it.
He plunged deep into the swimming pool. The bees drowned but they stung him a few more times for good measure before they died. Bryce finally came up from the water and found himself face-to-face with a pit bull.
This is the 4th Contest in the Suspense Techniques Series. Come on, you know you want to make your characters miserable. Have at it. Winner gets either a signed copy of Isle of Swords or Door Within extended dance remix. ;-) Btw, I have not judged the previous entries. I'd still like to see a few more authors get involved first. And I use author correctly. Published or not yet published, you are authors.