Suspense and Tension Grab Readers and Keep Them Hooked

The appeal of story is the same reason we do a lot of things we enjoy: baking or gardening or bungee jumping. It’s not just to achieve the end product, or we’d go buy a box of doughnuts or an eggplant or just stay down there on the ground. The journey is the point—those moments flailing through the air on the end of a glorified rubber band. For a few breathless moments you get to experience the thrill of uncertainty—will the soufflé rise…how big will my watermelon get…is that thing going to snap in midair? That’s why we read (or watch) stories. And the crucial tools a writer uses to create that delicious uncertainty are suspense and tension.

Suspense and tension are among the most important elements of compelling, readable stories that grab your reader and compel her to turn the page—in every single genre. These two key craft elements are the engine of story.

The terms are often used interchangeably, and they’re intimately related, but suspense is more an element of story and tension an element of scene. Both create a question in the reader’s mind: In oversimplified terms, with suspense it’s “What happens next?” and with tension, “How will the character overcome this obstacle?” And both are crucial to compelling story in every genre, not just suspense novels.

In this detailed exploration into these concepts, learn why a lack of tension and suspense may be what’s keeping you from that publishing contract or bestseller list, or costing you reader investment. We’ll examine how to determine whether you have enough suspense and tension in your story, along with tips for how to develop these elements so that readers are compelled to keep turning pages.

Filled with practical examples from books, movies, and TV, this workshop will let you wield these powerful tools to amp up your story’s impact and effectiveness and keep readers hooked.

What You'll Learn

  • The difference between suspense and tension, and how they work in tandem in every genre
  • How to use questions to create that delicious narrative uncertainty at the heart of suspense
  • How to create both overarching suspense as well as within each scene to keep stakes high, readers hooked, and momentum strong
  • Why tension belongs on every page and in every line regardless of your genre, and how to create and maintain it throughout the story
  • What is “microtension”?
  • The six main types of tension and how to use them
  • Ways to create, sustain, and build tension
  • Why beginnings and endings are the most crucial places for both suspense and tension, and how to use them effectively to draw readers in and keep them turning pages

Who should take this course?

  • Fiction writers in all genres, memoirists, narrative nonfiction writers
  • Beginning, intermediate, and advanced writers
  • Writers who struggle with how to hook readers and keep them hooked
  • Authors who want to create high stakes and strong momentum in their stories
  • Authors who have received positive feedback on stories but are told that “it didn’t grab the reader enough” or “something is missing”

Hi, I'm Tiffany Yates Martin, founder of FoxPrint Editorial.

In my publishing career working as a book editor on hundreds of manuscripts—for major publishers and New York TimesWall Street Journal, Washington Post, and USA Today bestselling and award-winning authors as well as newer writers—I have more than 25 years of experience in pinpointing what can keep an author's story from being as effective as it can be, and how to help authors make it marketable and competitive.

As an editor as well as a teacher leading workshops and seminars in writing and editing, I've developed clear, useful, hands-on tools for helping authors learn to spot these areas, along with practical techniques for addressing them, and I'm the author of a book based on those techniques, Intuitive Editing: A Creative & Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing.

"One of the very best...!"

“The workshop was one of the very best I've ever seen anywhere, in person or virtual. [Tiffany] handled the material so well and made it so sensible. I have attended many writers' workshops in various states for over 10 years. This one was one of the very best.” Karen D.

"Well paced, well delivered, and very interesting."

“This was incredible. Well paced, well delivered, and very interesting. Thank you!” —Chelle H.

"Clear and concise."

“Everything was clear and concise from Tiffany. Not a moment was wasted (no idle chatter), which made all the learning fun and interesting, or at least it did for me. I also loved the examples shared and how we can infuse tension and suspense into so many genres quite easily. I'm a new fan!” —Terri T.

Example Curriculum

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  How Suspense and Tension Work Together
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  Beginnings and endings: key places for tension and suspense
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  Supplemental Materials
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Choose a Pricing Option


When does the course start and finish?

The course starts now and never ends! It is a completely self-paced online course--you decide when you start and when you finish.

How long do I have access to the course?

How does lifetime access sound? After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like--across any and all devices you own.

What if I am unhappy with the course?

We would never want you to be unhappy! If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact us in the first 30 days and we will give you a full refund.