I come from a long line of story tellers. We often joke about it but it’s really true, no one tells a tale like my blood does. If ever there was one thing my family has taught me it’s how to build suspense.
Take for example a story my sister told me not that long ago. She’d gotten a call from her security company, someone had broken into her home and the company called the house only to be told “no I haven’t been broken in to.” This led my sister to assume that someone was still in her home – potentially armed – cocky or high enough to answer the phone mid robbery.
My sister is relating this tale to me, over the phone, slowly from her house. It took thirty full minutes for her to wind down her tale with, ‘no one’s here I’m fine and the house wasn’t broken into.” Meanwhile she not only had me scared shitless but hanging on her every word and not even realizing I’d been roped into her tale till it was nearly over. By which time I was too busy admiring how well she’d kept me from asking the obvious questions that would end it that much sooner and instead playing along with her every twist and turn.
The lesson? Even if you know where you’re going and how it’s going to end, you only need to give your audience so much to keep them tied to your hook and distracted from the ending that seems blatantly obvious to you. How exactly do you do that? Practice? An innate sense of timing? No idea really, I’m feeling along trying to figure it out even as I type.
So far I think I’ve been mostly successful from what I’ve talked about with my reader. She’s almost got me to tell her key plot bits that are coming next to make sure that I dropped the bread crumbs properly. She’s confused but in just the right ways and oh has she got questions, not even the questions I think she should be asking and such completely inconsequential ones that she’ll see answered with little regard as she reads deeper and deeper.
Right now I’m satisfied. She’s not. She could kill me actually. I didn’t give her nearly enough to satisfy her cravings, ah well I’m just getting started with the tale after all.