Guest Blogger–JULIE CAVE–On Building Suspense

Today, I’m so excited to introduce Julie Cave, my guest blogger. I’ve been following her FB page,, for some time, and have thoroughly enjoyed her Monday Masterclass writing series over at her blog, (we were on the same wavelength there, with a Monday writing series!). As a matter of fact, if you visit her blog today, you’ll see MY guest blogpost over there! I had a little something to say about Vikings and historical fiction.

Let me introduce you to Julie, before you read her post below on suspense-building.

Julie Cave credits her parents for introducing her to books at a young age, which fostered an enduring passion for reading and writing. As a child, her favourite authors were Enid Blyton and C.S. Lewis and it wasn’t long before she began copying them, writing short stories for anyone who would read them.
After school, she completed a health science degree, got married, and worked in banking and finance. All the while she wondered how she could combine her love of writing and her strong passion for Christian apologetics and evangelism. One weekend at a church camp, a friend asked, ‘What if the guy in charge of the Smithsonian Institution went missing?’
The result – and the answer to that question – is Julie’s maiden published novel, Deadly Disclosures.  It was released in May 2010.
The second book in the Dinah Harris mystery trilogy, The Shadowed Mind, was released in October 2010.  In this novel, Dinah is confronted with two very different opinions on the value of human life.
The third book, Pieces of Light, delves into the secular humanist movement to remove God from our culture.
Recently, readers voted Julie #4 in the top ten New Authors for 2010, and her novels Deadly Disclosures and The Shadowed Mind tied in 10th place for Best Suspense Novel of the Year.

Julie has two daughters and lives in Brisbane, Australia with her family. She divides her time between being a wife, a mother and an author.
Buy her books here:

Answers in Genesis:
The Suspense is Building! by Julie Cave
Ever hear these phrases describing a suspense or mystery novel?
“Couldn’t put it down!”
“A real page-turner!”
“Read it all in one sitting!”
These are all phrases the writer of a suspense or mystery novel loves to hear to describe their work.  Why is it that mystery and crime novels are often described this way?
The answer lies in the ability of the writer to build anticipation into their work.  That’s why pacing a suspense or mystery novel is so important.  Whilst plot, dialogue and characterization are all important parts of the story, there is an emphasis not necessarily found in other genres, on suspense.
Suspense and mystery novels usually contain a crime that forms the main conflict within the story.  The protagonist is usually an investigator, professional or otherwise, who must solve the crime.  There are many formulas that work: the “who-done-it?”, the “why-did-he-do-it?”, the “how-did-he-do-it?”, the “will-he-ever-be-caught?” and so on.
There are endless opportunities to be creative and original within these formulas, but one rule remains firm.   
You must build suspense!
How is it, exactly, that suspense is built?
Essentially, it is the parceling out of crucial bits of information.  These may take the form of snippets of dialogue, little clues, a stunning secret, or the digging up of a scandalous past.  You can use your characters, the plot or the dialogue – or a combination of all three.  You can use flashbacks or different points-of-view.  The options are limited only by your own creativity.
As you parcel out these crucial pieces of information, it’s just as important to remember that you’ve done it.  Nothing spoils a mystery like loose ends that aren’t tied up properly!
Another way to build suspense is to ensure that the ends of each chapter are memorable.  The most obvious way is to make it a cliffhanger, but that’s very hard to do with every single chapter.  Another way you can do it is to leave something unresolved – even if it has nothing to do with the main conflict.  In my first novel, Deadly Disclosures, my main character had a tragic past that I used to help build suspense in addition to the crime she was in the midst of solving.  What I hope this achieved is not only that the reader was wondering how the mystery would be solved but also whether the main character would overcome her issues.
Ultimately, what helped me learn how to effectively build suspense was to read and learn from those writers whom I admired, and to practice my craft.  So my best piece of advice then is: be persistent!  
****What about you? Do you write suspense, or try to use some of these techniques? I do try to get that cliffhanger or emotional hook at the end of my chapters. And please don’t forget to visit Julie’s blog at and check out my post and Julie’s fabulous posts, too! ****

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