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What Makes a Good Suspense Novel?

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What makes a good suspense novel? Simple. Open with a life-threatening situation that makes you wonder how the  will deal with it. And walk them through it, scene by scene, until the threat hits and you show the characters reacting in defense, sometimes physical, sometimes emotional. For example, Shadow of Guilt opens with an arsonist out for revenge on the hero hiding in the moonlit shadows of a treeline behind the hero’s home. And there’s his wife in the house, vulnerable and unsuspecting, along with the daughter. And the hero? On a night he could’ve been home, he’s doing a fundraiser for hospitalized kids.

What’s going to happen? Will he come home on time to defend his household? Or will he be delayed by meeting with and consoling his troubled secretary after the fundraiser (another move by a suspense author, namely, introducing a complication that delays the sub-climax).

So it’s a combination of incidents and character reactions that compels the reader to want to read more, to see how this is going to turn out. But it keeps going. Sub-climax to more complication as the characters try to defend themselves.
Sub-climax as the characters react to those around them.