How To Keep Tension High When Writing A Mystery [Mystery Month]

Mystery novels are supposed to keep the reader guessing. Mysteries can also be classified as a thriller, suspense, psychological, etc. All categories keep you guessing and place you at the edge of your seat, right?

How To Keep Tension High In Mystery Novels

What is tension in novels?

Tension is anticipation. It’s suspense. It’s sitting at the edge of the seat waiting, wondering what’s going to happen next. Wanting a certain something to happen next.

How can you add tension in your novels?

There are many different ways you can add tension in your novels, but here are just a few you can use:

  • Create tension with your protagonist
  • Create tension during a scene
  • Create tension between two important characters
  • Create tension by revealing things to your readers, but not your protagonist
  • Create tension by adding lies, secrets, changes, and/or unexpected events

What can you do to create this tension?

1. Ask Questions

When it comes to asking questions, you don’t always have to answer them right away. Or, you can have the narrator answer it for the readers, but not the protagonist. Or maybe the protagonist knows the answer, but he’s not sharing with anyone. And, don’t forget, questions can be answered with more questions.

2. Foreshadowing and Flashbacks

Foreshadowing will keep your readers guessing and speculating about what may or may not happen. Flashbacks, although should be used with caution, are great to help give the readers bits and pieces of information at a time. That will also keep them guessing about what happened and how that will affect what’s to come next.

3. Create Conflict

Tension can be created through conflict. Conflict can be inner problems for a certain character or external problems for multiple characters and scenarios. Keep those problems coming and ask, how will they get solved? When will they get solved? Will the characters make the right choices? Will the problems ever get solved?

There are so many different ways to keep the tension high when writing mysteries. Be secretive, add a lot of problems and maybe not as much action (upon those problems). If you’d gasp reading it, then chances are your readers will too.

What are some ways you create tension in your novels? How do you hold the tension during a mystery crime? Let me know in the comments below!

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6 thoughts on “How To Keep Tension High When Writing A Mystery [Mystery Month]

  1. Great post, Rachel! I am getting better at tension, and the reminder that it can be small or large, direct or indirect is a good one. I’m saving this post!

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