Did you ever a thriller novel series one after another, maybe three books in a row? You couldn’t wait to read what happened in the next chapter of the main character’s eventful life. Thrillers like the Bourne Series, Harry Potter, and even Nancy Drew are loved for the simple reason that they keep the reader tense, turning the pages to know what happens next.
This creation of anticipation in a reader is what makes the difference in whether a reader will read a few pages and keep your book down, or keep turning the pages. How can you create tension in a story?
Create uneven odds
When a character is fighting uneven odds, the reader will want to know if and how the character overcomes these odds. This works very well for fiction action thrillers where the character faces an almost impossible task like taking on a drug cartel in a foreign country. How will he do it? Will it be won?
Using dialogue in the place of a narrated conflict goes ahead to show the relationships and power struggles between characters. It can tell of arguments, refusals and different mind games playing out in a story. The dialogue should help the reader anticipate events that have happened or are about to happen.
Twists and surprises
Twists and turns in a story take the reader off the course she had been anticipating to a new plane of thought. In a thriller, this is often done by having a character who has been working or playing the main character all the time, and is revealed at some point in the buildup to a climax.
Deadlines and time limits
Just like in movies where a protagonist keeps the watcher on edge when battling a ticking time bomb, tension can also be built in a written story by introducing time limits and deadlines, for example, discovering a crucial document before some important government decision.
Stakes are raised when the protagonist is directly affected by the consequences of achieving or failing in a task, for example, the villains holding the protagonist’s kid hostage while demanding he fulfills a dangerous and unpleasant task.
Refusing the protagonist
Denying the protagonist what he needs to achieve his goals gives him more obstacles and complications to go through, which keeps the reader close and rooting for the protagonist. This could, for example, discovering that he has lost his passport and he needs to go through the airport. How will it happen? The reader will turn the page to follow.