Building Suspenseful Sentences


One of the best ways to keep readers turning the page is to keep them wondering about what will happen next.  The storyteller’s secret is the cat’s nemesis, curiosity.  In addition to a suspenseful storyline, build suspense into your sentences.  If a sentence is a message, handing over the message at the beginning of the sentence can result in a loss of interest.  The reader says, I get it so why are you wasting my time with more words?  If you deliver the goods at the back end, readers wait for a payoff, like searching for a surprise plastic cowboy in the bottom of a Cracker Jack Box.  More examples:  “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.”  “Looking back on my thirty years of work in business, knowing what I intended and the results, meditating on all the fads that came and went, and the state of the field today, I see clearly that I achieved practically nothing.” So you place words or phrases at the end of the sentence that no one could have predicted.  Here’s another example from my memoir (available on Amazon), Out of the Inferno:  A Husband’s Passage Through Cancerland:  “And in perpetual loyalty to the entire family, in the last package of photographs, Laurene included a snapshot of our larger-than-life cat, Brother Butterscotch.”  Take a front-end-loaded sentence from your own writing, and back-end-load a surprise ending.  This technique will 1) add variety to your writing, 2) emphasize your most important ideas, and 3) sustain reader interest.

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