Every story has a plot line in which characters, themes, and obstacles create suspense. In order to grab and hold a viewer’s attention, a story line must be suspenseful, as this will leave viewers wanting to know what happens next in the scene or plot.
Suspense scenes are suitable for all movie genres and all ages. Let’s examine a simple example. If your character is a teenage boy competing in a swim meet, viewers will not engage if he is simply stuck in traffic, causing him to be late to the swim meet. However, this is not an ordinary swim meet. Perhaps your swimmer is competing for a national record, or against his rival for a scholarship to his university of choice, viewers will connect and root for the swimmer’s success. In this scene you, as a writer, have identified swimming (and success) as something of significance to the character, which was then jeopardized by his potential inability to make it to his swim meet on time. This plot twist, or introduction of suspense in the scene, will leave viewers wanting to know what happens next. With this, you’ve developed an ordinary scene or story line into a more suspenseful plot twist. This is a successful option for introducing suspense, because viewers can identify with the problem presented, as the audience will empathize with the swimmer’s struggle with traffic, or potentially being late to his swim meet, obstacles viewers will be able to adapt to their own lives.
The introduction of these obstacles, or hazards, allows writers to write suspenseful scenes. A plot will be dry and unentertaining without goals; characters must have goals to give them something to achieve. Without the attempt(s) to achieve, it is difficult to introduce suspense, as the character will have no true assignment or purpose.
The purpose of the hazard is to provide something that will impede the success, achievement, or completion of the characters’ goal(s). The plot will become inherently more suspenseful as hazards are presented; the more obstacles your character(s) must defeat, the more he or she gets to do, which will allow for additional hazards to present themselves throughout the plot.
To introduce hazards, a writer must give a character something to do, and provide a necessary reason this task must be done. Without giving the character something to do, the plot will idle and leave the writer with a languishing plot and disconnected audience between suspenseful scenes. By giving the character something to do, the writer is then able to add an obstacle or introduce hazards the character will need to triumph over. This will add suspense to the story line. As stated previously, writers can additionally jeopardize or put at risk something significant to the character.
By doing this, writers will be able to produce a script that will better engage and connect the audience or viewers. By raising the bar and introducing steeper obstacles for characters to overcome, writers will strain anxiety levels of their audience members, forcing them to wonder what will happen next in the story or plot. To write in a suspenseful manner, writers should implement complications and introduce hazards by broadcasting information sensitive to viewers as early as possible. In doing so, the audience will not only connect with the screenplay, but will adhere to your plot until the closing scene(s). Picture credit