How to Write a Suspense Novel: Tips on Differing Points of View
Updated: Feb 24, 2020
This is the third week of a blog series about how to write suspense novels. In the next few weeks I'll be focusing on one of the aspects below in the "what you'll need" section.
What you'll need:
A few helpful points of view (POVs)
An incredibly strong reason for your main character (MC) to be involved
This week I'll be discussing how POV can affect your story, and why varying points of view make writing a suspense novel easier.
I've said it before, but I'll say it again:
You create suspense when your reader knows more than your character and therefore feels concern for the character.
I've drawn this conclusion from studying what a few of the top authors of suspense novels have to say on the matter, people like Simon Wood and Steven James, and studying the subtle differences between the genres covered by the umbrella term "suspense."
In order to give your reader more information than your character, you have to find a way to reveal that information in a way that makes sense.
One of the easiest ways to do that is to show what your antagonist is doing as they do it.
You can do that by having key scenes throughout the book from the antagonist's perspective, or you can write from the perspective of the Leverage (don't know what I'm talking about? Read my post on character archetypes). Regardless, you'll dampen the suspense if the character knows everything the reader knows. After all, when the character already knows at the beginning of the mystery who committed the crime and why, it's not much of a story. But if you as an author unveil certain aspects of the character's life as the information becomes relevant, you'll be able to play with that information flow.
So, here are the perspectives I suggest having in your novel, referred to by the names used in my previous post:
1. The Hero
This is obvious. You need to tell the story from their perspective, as they are the one you want your reader to be concerned for. This is the character who takes the reader along on the ride and gives them a connecting point into the story.
2a. The Villain
Again, for reasons mentioned above, this is useful because it allows your reader to know more than your protagonist. It also gives you a way to showcase how much is actually at stake. Be careful with what you reveal here, as you don't want to remove the intrigue created by the mystery, but don't be afraid to tap into that dark side and write from the villain's perspective.
2b. The Leverage
If your leverage is a character (e.g. the protagonist's daughter who's been kidnapped for ransom or blackmail) writing from their perspective gives you a window into the actions of the villain.
Note: You don't need both the perspective of the Leverage AND the perspective of the Villain, I'd suggest only one of those two options.
3. The Assistant
If you find the story isn't working quite right without a third perspective, feel free to throw in the assistant's POV. It's not necessary for every story, but it can provide some insight and provide a sense of normalcy as the villain messes with the hero's head. This gives an outsider's perspective on the effect the villain is having on the hero, and that can do wonders for increasing worry and concern in your reader.
Is it possible to write a suspense novel with only the perspective of the hero? Yes. The hero will likely have to be extremely connected and have access to all sorts of information. So it's difficult, but possible.
If you have any questions not answered here, please leave them in the comments and I'll get back to you.
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J. J. Hanna is a Professional Writing major at Taylor University. In her spare time she creates YouTube Videos and Comics, and practices Karate at a local dojo. If you have a writing question, she'd love to hear from you! She is also looking for freelancing work, so if you have editing, beta reading, or writing needs, or would simply like to chat in a consultation, please let her know. Like what you see and want to get more content like this, or have your specific questions answered? Check out how you can support her on Patreon for as little as $3 a month.
This week's YouTube video was writing tips for beginners. Enjoy!