Monday, August 31, 2020

Plotting the Suspense Novel by DiAnn Mills

Do you write suspense, or have you considered writing in that genre? Award-winning and best-selling author DiAnn Mills is here today with tips and strategies for plotting your novel. Enjoy! ~ Annette

DiAnn Mills

Plotting the suspense novel uses creativity, imagination, and knowing the characters inside and out to create an edge-of-the-seat experience. The story line is filled with action and propels the story forward while the reader senses a deep concern for the protagonist.

In a successful suspense story, a writer has six feats to accomplish for the reader.

1. The reader must admire the unpredictability of the twists and turns of the plot. 

2. The reader is made aware of the high stakes in the first chapter. 

3. The reader must value a unique protagonist who is determined and shows the ability to learn and acquire what is necessary to succeed. 

4. The reader experiences the action vicariously through a point-of-view character. 

5. The reader must experience worry and anxiety about the protagonist. 

6. The reader must see the antagonist’s strength and fear the protagonist will fail.

Every scene focuses on what is the worst possible thing that can happen to the protagonist, which shows danger stalks the hero or heroine. This is best accomplished by the writer who incorporates the answers to the following questions into every scene:

1. What is the POV character’s goal or problem? 

2. What does the POV character learn that he/she didn’t know before? 

3. What backstory is revealed? Tip: avoid backstory and character flaws in the first approximately 50 pages. 

4. How are the stakes raised?

The writer looks at the concept of the story, the character, and all the other literary techniques to create stress, tension, and conflict. Blend emotions into the mix, especially conflicting emotions that strive for prominence and keep the reader turning pages.

Tips to increase the stakes:

• Create a time element or ticking clock to stop the crime spree or prevent a crime from happening. 

• Add complications that apply pressure to the hero/heroine. Use other characters, backstory, betrayal, internal turmoil, blind spots, and circumstances beyond the protagonist’s control. 

• Force the protagonist to make tough choices and be willing to accept the consequences. For example, two rights or two wrongs. 

• Give the villain an edge that deems the goal impossible. 

• Punch the story with unpredictable and unexpected events. 

• Implore credibility by showing characters in action with strong motivation. 

• Develop an antagonistic setting for every scene. 

• Keep any type of relief at a distance until the climax and resolution.

At the climax, a torch ignites the inevitable crisis that has been burning since chapter one. It’s catastrophe time. Whatever has been crucial to the protagonist has been destroyed. The real character—the inner landscape character—must solve the insurmountable problem. And that hero or heroine fulfills all promises made to the reader.

Your turn. What suspense plotting techniques can you share with us?

In a successful suspense story, a writer has six feats to accomplish for the reader. #amwriting #storytelling #amwritingsuspense @DiAnnMills


Heather Lawrence’s long-awaited vacation to Salzburg wasn’t supposed to go like this. Mere hours into the transatlantic flight, the Houston FBI agent is awakened when passengers begin exhibiting horrific symptoms of an unknown infection. As the virus quickly spreads and dozens of passengers fall ill, Heather fears she’s witnessing an epidemic similar to ones her estranged husband studies for a living—but this airborne contagion may have been deliberately released.

While Heather remains quarantined with other survivors, she works with her FBI colleagues to identify the person behind this attack. The prime suspect? Dr. Chad Lawrence, an expert in his field . . . and Heather’s husband. The Lawrences’ marriage has been on the rocks since Chad announced his career took precedence over his wife and future family and moved out.

As more victims fall prey days after the initial outbreak, time’s running out to hunt down the killer, one who may be closer to the victims than anyone ever expected.


DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; the Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn speaks to groups and teaches writing all over the country. Connect with DiAnn here:

Connect with DiAnn here:

Twitter @diannmills