The Ditchwalk Book Club is reading and discussing Rust Hills’ seminal work, Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular. Announcement here. Overview here. Tag here.
Most writers and readers have at least a passing familiarity with suspense as a fiction technique, as an effect and as a genre. Hills addresses all of these aspects of suspense in this section, and in doing so makes some value judgments you may or may not agree with.
What I think you will agree with is that suspense can be a powerful aspect of foreshadowing, however you choose to approach it. I tend to agree with Hills’ assessment of the pitfalls of suspense, but it’s important to stress that this is not akin to authorial fraud. Suspense, like sex, sells. It has a reliable, predictable effect on the reader, and in a craft driven by the need to attract and hold interest it does both.
The main problem with suspense is that, like sex, it quite often obliterates all other aspects of a work, no matter how well they might have been implemented. Unbridled, suspense has the power to overwhelm any story, becoming not simply an engine of interest, but the only interest. [ Read more ]