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Suspension Suspense

June 23, 2011

I’ve just read this brilliant post. How do you go about building suspension into your fiction?

The blog post was adequate, but it was the above tweet leading to the post that grabbed my attention. I’ve been scribbling for years and I never thought of building suspension into my writing.

As a former trucker and half-arsed mechanic, I know quite a bit about suspension. These days it’s air suspension on trucks and buses, in my day, they were the old, 5-leaf springs. I once fitted new back shocks to my car using nothing but a pile of bricks, a long plank, a lot of sweat and considerable bad language to jack up the suspension while Her Indoors turned the first threads of the locking nut.

But how do I get that into my fiction? Agents Nellis and Holt are running like hell from Flix’s zombies. Should I have them stop to gas up the hydrolastic pressure chamber on their Mini-Metro? Joe Murray is about to name the murderer when a mechanic rings and tells him back springs are busted?

There are other types of suspension, of course, and I did include a hanging in Coldmoor, but it was germane to the plot and it would hardly slot into your average chicklit title.

The tweeter meant suspense, and the likelihood is, it was a blooper of the classic kind that may haunt him/her for weeks.

Now in case you think I’m Mr Perfect, I’m not. I make my share of mistakes, and some of them sneak through the proofing stages getting past me and the young woman who does my editing, making it all the way to print (or e-print) and only come to light when some pain in the butt reader points them out.

I see many other examples, too: professional writers that don’t know the difference between losing and loosing, other writers who persist in using the word smelt (a kind of fish or the slag from iron ore) instead of smelled. Do I know the difference between discreet and discrete? I do not.

But this particular error came from a site that offers editorial services!!!

And it’s not the only one.

A couple of days back, bored out of my cheese, surfing aimlessly, I stumbled on a plug for an editorial/design outfit offering e-book preparation “tatally free of charge.” Right under it, they also offered “proofreading at reasonable rates.”

It is me, isn’t it? I’m losing the plot, aren’t I?

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