Suspense Story Ideas & Writing a Suspense Story Rules to Write By—
Want to write a suspense story? If it’s time to begin your next chilling masterpiece, we have some brand new suspense writing ideas for you. Scroll down the page to see some wonderful suspense story prompts to help kickstart your creative juices and get you on your story writing way.
With these suspense story ideas, you can create a quick short story or an epic novel with unexpected twists and turns. Take advantage of this moment to start creating a compelling story with an ending no one will expect.
Enjoy these suspense story ideas and then take a look at the fabulous list of 10 suspense writing rules for Young Authors outlined below.
Suspense Story Ideas
- It all began on a typical day, as I was walking through the store. Then, he stopped me and told me I had to listen to him closely. He said that my life depended on it.
- As I looked down at the body, I thought to myself, “It wasn’t supposed to end like this.”
- At first, it felt like a joke, as if someone was playing a prank on me by sending nonsense text messages over and over again. But now, I was starting to wonder if there was something more to these messages.
- I began to pick up the pace. The footsteps were getting closer, and I could tell the person — or the thing — was walking faster. I knew what they wanted, but I wasn’t about to give it up.
- The trip was a dream come true. I was staying with my new husband in a castle in Scotland. There was a chill in the autumn air, and I felt like there had never been a more romantic place in the world. Unfortunately, that feeling quickly subsided at nightfall. Once the darkness settled in, the ambiance quickly shifted. It was no longer quaint and charming. In fact, it was quite terrifying to be within the castle’s stone walls.
- I found her crying, and she couldn’t stop. She could hardly breathe between sobs. As I looked around, I soon began to realize that everything had gone terribly wrong.
- I was ready. I was ready and waiting. As soon as I heard the command, my fingers gripped the weapon that was discretely hidden. It was time.
- I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. I felt like I had walked onto the set of a horror movie as soon as I stepped into the cornfield. The moon was full, and a misty fog had settled around me. But still, the shrill scream startled me, and my heart began to race. Suddenly, I was afraid for my life.
- The first password I tried didn’t work. Neither did the second attempt. I knew I was going to be locked out of the database soon, but if I didn’t crack the code the consequences would be dire. Time was running out.
- The creatures looked strange — like nothing anyone had ever seen before. They were everywhere, and it was beginning to feel like an omen.
- He was gone. No one could find him anywhere. Can people just vanish into thin air? We were on board a luxury cruise ship, and we had been searching for days. He was simply… gone.
- I never considered myself particularly superstitious, but when the black flower started growing beneath her window, a growing dread began to blossom inside of me. This could only mean one thing.
- They had me trapped. I had tried to escape and for a minute, I thought I was going to be successful. But they were closing in on me, and I knew that this was the beginning of the end.
- It might seem old-fashioned, but I’m a firm believer in developing film inside a dark room. However, I never expected this to appear on the photograph that was coming into fruition.
Writing a Suspense Story
Guest Article by Tony Lee Moral
When writing my new Young Adult novel Ghost Maven, about a girl who falls in love with a sailor boy, I was inspired by the works of Alfred Hitchcock when building my mystery and writing my suspense. Hitchcock was dubbed the ‘Master of Suspense’ for good reason.
10 Rules to Remember when Writing Suspense
1. The number one rule of suspense is to give your reader information. You can’t expect a reader to have anxieties if they have nothing to be anxious about. If you tell the reader that there’s a bomb in the room and that it’s going to go off in five minutes, that’s suspense. The suspense in Ghost Maven is what will happen when Alice finds out that Henry is a ghost? The suspense drives the narrative and invites readers to keep turning pages.
2. The golden rule then is to let the reader in on the secret and involve them in the suspense building. In Psycho, the audience knows more than the characters when first Arbogast and then Lila Crane, enters the Bates house to investigate. On both occasions, the audience wants to shout, ‘look out!’ as the ‘Mother’ is inside. In the same way, give your reader more information than the characters to build the suspense.
3. A good story should start with an earthquake and be followed by rising tension. Some of Hitchcock’s best stories start with a bang, such as the chase along San Francisco’s twilight rooftops in Vertigo, or the strangulation murder at the beginning of Rope. I start Ghost Maven with the heroine in deep water and in danger when a kayaking trip in Monterey Bay goes terribly wrong.
4. Never use a setting simply as background. Use it 100%. Hitchcock was adamant that the backgrounds must be incorporated into the drama and made it a rule to exploit elements that are connected with a location. When writing my locations, I also thought about how they could be used dramatically. In Ghost Maven, when Alice climbs the Point Pinos Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse on the West Coast, it twice becomes the setting for her attempted murder.
5. At the same time, avoid the cliché in your locations, such as staging a murder in a dark alleyway or at night. Hitchcock loved contrast and would often stage his most macabre scenes in the most congenial of settings, such as the murder-dinner party in Rope, or the attempted assassination of Cary Grant’s character in North by Northwest, which takes place in brilliant sunshine inside a crop field. This sense of the unexpected and the idea that turmoil can erupt at any moment will keep your readers on their guard.
6. Keep your story moving. The sudden switches of location in a book are also very important to ensure your readers are alert. I start my novel with a quick succession of chapters, using famous landmarks around Monterey Bay, such as the Aquarium, Point Pinos Lighthouse and Pacific Grove Church. These will become absolutely crucial locations and settings for the action later on.
7. Avoid Cliched stereotypes. Hitchcock has given us some of the most memorable villains to grace the screen. That’s because he avoided the cliché through character and made his villains attractive. “All villains are not black, and all heroes are not white. There are grays everywhere. You can’t just walk down Fifth Avenue and say he’s a villain and he’s a hero. How do you know?” said Hitchcock. Make your villains attractive, so that they can get near their victims.
8. Channel Your Inner Teen. This is important when writing Young adult fiction so that you have an authentic voice. Ghost Maven revolves around the many first experiences of being a teenager; going on a first date, first love, and first prom date. Dig deep to recapture those intense feelings to avoid the clichés and stereotypes.
9. Write authentic dialogue, especially if you want teen readers to connect with your story. Capturing the intensity and feelings of being a teenager is vital, where everything seems so exaggerated. But be wary of using slang, which quickly dates your work.
10. In a mystery, you don’t need to answer every question, it’s important to leave some questions unresolved so that the audience will be thinking about them at the end of the book. Hitchcock called this ‘Ice box syndrome’, referring to the moment when a couple discusses the plot or something is troubling them, and they reach into the ‘ice box’ or refrigerator. The mystery at the end of Ghost Maven is what happens to the central characters. And of course, it opens up the possibility of an exciting sequel.
Tony Lee Moral is the author of three books on Alfred Hitchcock; Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie; The Making of Hitchcock’s The Birds and Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Making Masterclass. His new novel, a Hitchcockian suspense mystery, Ghost Maven, is published by Cactus Moon Publications.
Until next time, write on…
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