21 tricks to quickly create intrigue
21 tricks to quickly create intrigue

Do you dream of becoming a famous writer or the author of sensational articles? How to grab the reader's attention with your head and make him forget about the time? Intrigue is necessary in any genre.

Suspense is a state of obscurity, when the reader does not even notice how he turns page after page. It can be translated as "intrigue".

Elizabeth Sims is a bestselling novelist and an authority on writing. She is the author of seven popular novels in two series (Rita Farmer's Mysteries and Lillian Bird's Detective Series) and an excellent book for writers, You've Got a Book: A Stress-Free Guide to Writing Your Dream Book.

“Sometimes I talk to schoolchildren about how books are written. I start by asking how many pages it takes to write a novel. They express their guesses - and suddenly they become unusually interested in what is the correct answer. No matter what their guess is, children are always shocked and horrified when I show them a foot-high stack of handwritten yellow pages - the first rough draft of one of my novels. Schoolchildren have just experienced "suspense" and got acquainted with the denouement in its simplest form.

When I ask what it takes to write a story with intrigue, invariably one of the children shouts: "Include the villain in it!"

Good advice, albeit an obvious one. In fact, stories in any genre need intrigue: readers have to stay with you until the end, and intrigue is the main element that will make them turn the pages. What's more, as you work your way through this wobbly stack of sheets to the end of a rough draft, a quick injection of intrigue is a great way to add fuel to your story. Suddenly, you yourself will want to keep writing to find the answer.

How to come off in full?
How to come off in full?

Here's a list of ways to achieve this effect, along with some great advice to include a villain in your plot.

1. Point with your finger

Mary Renault's historical novel The Persian Boy begins with a disaster: the death and destruction of the protagonist's family and home. Before dying, his father utters the name of the traitorous enemy. Well, guess who the Persian boy will meet later … much later?

This powerful script will work to create and maintain intrigue in any genre. Any disaster will do - financial ruin, heartbreak, missed opportunity.

2. Give a false alarm

The parable about the boy who shouted "Wolves" not only carries a moralizing charge, it also has a plot that keeps you in suspense. Once you find out about the shepherdess's plan to attract attention by screaming that a wolf has attacked the sheep, you already know that sooner or later a real wolf will appear. You also know that the townspeople will not like being made fools of. Nobody likes it - that's why this technique works, whether it's in a sleepy town, in a Wall Street office, or in an emergency room.

3. Set up a cellar or secret dungeon

Medieval lords sometimes built a simple pit under the floor of the castle and threw a prisoner into it, whom they would prefer to forget. No screams came from under the heavy cover, and, in any case, the screams did not last long.

In the story of Edgar Allan Poe "The Keg of Amontillado", the intrigue is based on a blood grievance, and the hero lures his enemy into a trap, inviting him to proceed to the wine cellar, where he immures him in a nook. Intrigue is created by guessing what Montresor is up to as he lures Fortunato deeper and deeper into the catacombs.

What you can do in your free time
What you can do in your free time

4. Sow the danger and wait

At the next stage of the development of the idea with a dungeon, in the book by Charles Portis "Iron Grip" the criminal Tom Cheney mentions a snake pit into which he threatens to push the heroine Matty Ross. Then a lot of things happen, and in the end Matty shot Cheney, but the recoil of the Colt's shot makes her recoil. My heart skips a beat when falling Matty realizes: “I completely forgot about the hole behind!”. The grace is that the reader has known about the pit for a long time.

Show the danger, then let the time (and many events) pass between the first mention of the danger and the actual moment when the hero falls into this trap.

5. Make friends with panic

While the hero's panic may seem like an easy way to create intrigue (the victim stumbles and falls, the persecutor catches up), people do sometimes legally panic and can be exploited.

A sure way is to create a character with flaws, especially someone who draws the wrong conclusions from the beginning. In this case, actions under the influence of panic will not only be plausible, but also expected. Expectation and anticipation itself can be intriguing, and then, when everything happens, the reader gets a "reward" and wants more.

6. Water the plant

Growth can be incredibly intriguing. Think about it: you plant a seed and water it. Will it be a wheat germ or a poisonous vine? Horror novels, from Rosemary's Baby to Bad Seed, Carrie, and so on, use this simple technique.

Watching a hero develop over time can be intriguing, especially if the hero is a child with a well-defined heredity: the son of a serial killer, conceived during a visit in prison, the daughter of a morally impeccable politician. Who will this little guy turn into - a drug addict prostitute or a Nobel laureate?

How to find your happiness?
How to find your happiness?

7. Withhold the truth

Withholding information from the reader can be a cheap trick, but there is also a right way - to be honest.

In Valley of Terror, Arthur Conan Doyle hides Birdie Edwards' secret from readers and other characters, but everyone has the same information. Both the characters and the readers have equal chances to explain the evidence, so when you get to the finale, you either already assumed this - and then your suspicions are justified - or this is a stunning discovery, but you can immediately exclaim: “Yes, of course! You should have guessed!"

Withhold the main point, but give out the information in small chunks, teasing the reader.

8. Send someone into exile

This secret came from antiquity, for example, in the Bible, the Lord expels Satan from Heaven. In modern books, a difficult teenager is sent to a boarding house, and a narcissistic psychopath is banished from the island.

Why is banishment such a cool way? We know the character hasn't gone anywhere. The villain ponders his punishment, sharpens an ax and ponders plans for revenge.

If you have an omniscient storyteller or are presented with the perspectives of different narrators, it is possible to shuttle back and forth from exile to a peaceful, quietly living tribe, heating up the tension with the contrast between these thoughts and actions.

9. Get inspired by the headlines in the press

Daily news is a terrific source of ideas for intrigue. To a recent writing conference, I brought my morning paper with me (yes, they still come out in this city) to show how easy it is to come up with an idea for a story.

In the process of work, I realized that, in fact, an idea for intrigue can be unearthed literally in every section. "Will local greenhouse skaters be able to get to the Olympic Games?" What if one of them is having an affair with a coach? Here's an announcement: camera lost, please return for a fee. What kind of images does the memory card store? Snapshots of a happy family picnic? Perhaps. Or maybe not.

Harsh laws of life
Harsh laws of life

ten. Untwist one end

One of my Hollywood friends recently told me about a simple and often used film trick for creating a "suspense" atmosphere when filming in the interior: you need to leave the cupboard door open. This visual clue suggests that not everything is in order here, not everything is calm, you need to take a closer look.

On the pages of a book, tension in any scene can be created with the help of small oddities that get out of the ordinary. Imagine the swinging strings by the kitchen apron, the flowing candle, the open bar of the window, the copier with jammed paper.

11. Fool your readers

The guard leaves without permission to illegally smoke a cigarette, and we guess that the maniac killer will now run away. It could be that, but wouldn't it be better if the guard returned in a few minutes and found everything was in order? The second time, perhaps, the guard will hear suspicious sounds, scream "Oh my God" and run back - and the prisoner is calmly resting in the cell.

Compare the example with shouting "wolves" and observe the rule of three times. For the third time, let it happen! It will be even better, since readers will be ready to cheat, to increase the rates: the guard returns, and the prisoner not only escaped, but also filled the cell with the bloody bodies of the second guard and all his family members.

12. Hide someone

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, a curious but generally good guy, Polonius, hides behind a curtain to eavesdrop. When he makes a sound, Hamlet pierces the curtain, confident that he is killing his enemy Claudius. This terrible mistake is one of the most tense moments in literature.

The still popular children's book "Harriet the Spy": in it, young Harriet learns how useful it is sometimes just to hide, because you can watch and listen, and no one will notice you. You just have to wait. In this situation, an intrigue is naturally created: what if you sneeze? What if a dog comes up, smelling a candy in your pocket?

"Hide and seek" can be understood in a figurative sense, like any other technique described in the article. For example, a hero can hide under a false name or under the cover of war.

What is useful to do at home?
What is useful to do at home?

13. Turn on the decoy duck

It's no secret why so many detective stories and thrillers include informants. A change in conviction or (much more often) a fear of prison makes many criminals "knock". It is even more interesting when they go out into the street with a listening and recording device to collect evidence to prove their guilt.

A friend of mine who is familiar with the work of law enforcement says that today's eavesdropping devices are almost impossible to detect. Still, a wonderful tension is created when the informant tries to achieve frankness by worrying and cunning.

14. Disguise

I like to use disguise and impersonation in my novels, because tension starts to build up when you show a character preparing to cheat, and it can be fun to describe incompetence and inappropriate behavior, for example, when a private investigator pretends to be a homeless drunkard or The reporter tries to impersonate a disguised nun.

We expect the professionals to do a good job of avoiding exposure. But when a hobbyist gets into a dangerous situation, readers will be thrilled to begin with.

15. Reinforce the unknown

Uncertainty is a centuries-old component of intrigue, commonly used in horror, science fiction, and paranormal fiction. For example, Stephen King has built a colossal career using the unknown (usually in a paranormal sense), for example, in the thrilling novel The Shining.

But I think one of the greatest uses of the unknown to create intrigue is Charlotte Brontë's gothic novel Jane Eyre. Finally, Jane manages to get out of the miserable Lowood School and start working as a governess in a house under the supervision of an extremely sexy host. But something very strange is happening in the attic! And the intrigue is built on this until the very end.

300 things to do in life
300 things to do in life

16. Connect symbols

I like it when there are 1-2 symbols in the story, and even better - when there is intrigue in the symbol itself. Turn to nature: its laws are inexorable, they are instinctively understandable to any person. A beautiful lake can symbolize the waters of life or something more unpleasant, for example, if your story is set in the fall, the morning frost begins to freeze the waters and gradually turn them into something cold, hard and dangerous.

17. Turn the hourglass over - and then turn it over again

In the thriller A Season in Purgatory, Dominic Dunn skillfully works with time to create the most intense intrigue. From the very beginning, we know that there was a murder many years ago, and we know that the killer will be found, as the narrator talks about a criminal trial. But then we are transported into the past to the beginning of events, when everyone is young, beautiful and (especially the victim) alive.

How was the crime committed, how did you manage to hide it, how did the investigation go? We won't rest until we get to the denouement again.

18. Play high with debt

Every good gangster knows that first you need to help people, and only then ask for a return service. Because when people are in your debt, it will be easier for you to convince them to do something for yourself.

This technique works in any situation - a political boss and voters (or subordinates), a hideous rivalry between siblings, a group of friends at a party at a spa resort.

I kept your secret, and now you keep mine. Capisce *?

What games can you play at home? 45 home games
What games can you play at home? 45 home games

*Do you understand? - Italian.)

19. Isolate the heroes

Isolation of an individual hero or a group of heroes turns the most ordinary circumstances into stressful ones. Think of all the murders behind closed doors in the writings of Agatha Christie, the adventures on board a sea ship, for example, in the books "The Sea Wolf" by Jack London or "Life of Pi" by Ian Martel.

Intrigue in isolation works great for plays: by default, all the characters are gathered on one stage, and we know that the rats in the cage will fight sooner or later.

How else can you create isolation - by the way, it can be temporary? How about a stuck elevator, a sudden thunderstorm, punctured tires?

20. Put spokes in the wheels

If you honestly use the opportunity just to get out of a predicament, readers will complain. In public. In their reviews on Amazon. Goodreads.

However, coincidences do happen. And a sudden disaster always heats up the intrigue. The main thing is to make it believable.

Of course, it is plausible if a young and "green" driver of a car designed to escape from a crime scene in a panic hit the road to the hotel … maybe even in the same one where the meeting of police chiefs is taking place at the moment, and therefore the bandits will have to split up and run away. … It is quite plausible that the head of the gang of gangsters will decide to move the contract murder by a day if his daughter began to give birth to his first grandson, despite the fact that the preparation has not yet been completed.

What do young people need to do?
What do young people need to do?

21. Tune in to this

I usually take notes, ponder, and outline an article for Writer's Digest during the day I spend at the big city library. While working on this article and completely immersed in the theory of intrigue, I took a short lunch at a nearby bistro. My glass of wine attracted a fruit midge - there she drowned.

Having caught a microscopic corpse, I furtively looked around and thought: "Lord God, how can I get rid of the body?" I swear to you, at some point I really felt that I had something to hide.

It is in this frame of mind that you, as an author, should create, living what you write, breathing your creation. If you do this, you have every chance that readers will stick to your books, holding their breath until the very end.

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