Nancy's Books

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Building Tension and Suspense

In most fictional picture books, MG and YA novels, the character faces a problem or goal. The story builds as the character makes multiple attempts to solve the problem or reach the goal. Think about the part leading up to the moment of victory. Slow down the action in this part of the story, so you won’t reveal the outcome quickly. Slowing the action builds tension. Tension builds suspense. The suspense keeps the reader hanging on to know more, cheering on the protagonist, and holding on to finish the story.

So how do writers slow down the action? One way is to add details that delay the resolution. In Barreling Over Niagara Falls, I focused the action between the barrel ride and the crowd who watched the daredevil stunt. Refocusing the text between the main character’s action of dropping over the Falls into the pool of water and turning the page to reveal the people watching, prolonged the reader from knowing the final outcome.

Another way to slow action is to write longer sentences. Short sentences speed the action, and longer sentences slow it.

Think about ways to slow the action in order to build tension and hold the reader’s attention to the last page.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Hanging Loose Press. Send up to six poems or short stories, or an equivalent combination of poetry and prose.

Submissions guidelines at Send up to six poems or short stories, or an equivalent combination of poetry and prose.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

Chicken Soup for the Soul. Our cat titles are so very popular, and you have so many great stories to share with us, that we do a new cat title every eighteen months or so. Here is another chance for you to share a story or two about the member of your family who just happens to walk on four feet!

We are looking for first-person true stories and poems up to 1200 words. Tell us about the magic of your cat or the magic of a cat you know. Stories can be serious or humorous, or both. We can’t wait to read all the heartwarming, inspirational, and magical stories you have about a cat and the magic that cat brings to your life or the life of your family!

Submissions guidelines at Submissions guidelines at

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 48 children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.

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