Friday, April 22, 2011

Kaye #6: Willa Kaye Danes on Maintaining Suspense

A big welcome today to fantasy writer  
Willa Kaye Danes 
who has some great advice for us on:


Every story needs ongoing suspense to maintain reader interest – not just action thrillers or murder mysteries. Here are some basic tips to keep your readers reading...

INITIAL HOOK. Your first sentence and first chapter should be a grabber – interesting and unique. But don’t resort to blowing up something unless it introduces your story appropriately.

STORY ARC / CONFLICT. Hint at the major conflict in the beginning. In the middle, use action followed by short relief passages to lull the reader into a false sense of security, followed by scenes with even more danger, suspense, or intrigue. Heighten the drama as the story progresses, with a major ‘black moment’ toward the end, where things look most dire. The final conflict should be appropriately difficult, so the outcome is not clear. Wrap up all loose ends quickly with a summary that satisfies the story’s needs as well as the reader’s.

PACING. Along with varying your scenes as described above, vary the length of sentences and paragraphs. To foster calm, use more luxurious sentences. For a tight spot, make sentences short and choppy. Abrupt wording will subconsciously tense up the reader. Also break up large blocks of narrative or dialog with action so you don’t put the reader to sleep with pages and pages of sameness.

BACK-STORY (INFO-DUMP). Big lumps of back-story about your characters or world-building will drag down a scene. Weave this information into your story as it’s needed, in natural ways that don’t stick out to the reader.

CHAPTER ENDINGS. A cliffhanger ending for every chapter’s not necessary, but try to end each one on a tense note or a surprise or a question raised but not answered. End at a high spot, before a resolution, like picking up the phone for a dreaded call, or turning the corner in an alley and finding–? A character shouldn’t fall asleep at the end of a chapter unless something terrifying or unusual happens.

Don’t give your reader any opportunity to stop reading, and you’ll get review comments like, “I stayed up all night reading – just couldn’t put this book down!”

What great advice, Willa, and really applicable for any genre! Before we let you go, tell us a little about yourself.  To start, please tell us how and why you came to use the name Kaye!

Willa Kaye Danes is a pen name – a mix-up of my initials, sort of. Some of my coworkers at my ‘day’ job are extremely conservative, so when I first started trying to get published, I felt I needed to keep my writing part of my life a secret. Now a lot of them know what I’m doing, but I decided to keep the pen name.

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing style.

I started my writing career later in life and am pleased to have one book published and another, part of an ongoing series, coming soon to publication. I am a ‘people watcher’ – when folks around me aren’t looking, I’m usually busy picking out choice character traits I can use in my books. I harbor a fascination for magical and fantasy themes, and that’s what I enjoy writing.

I love that!  Reminds me of a writer’s t-shirt:  Careful—Anything you say or do may appear in my next book! *grins*  Tell us about your book.

PIXIE – To save her dwindling clan, a three-inch fairy must find and return with a childhood playmate who’s now a human man all grown up!

A three-inch-tall pixie has a very big problem – a human one. To save her clan from extinction, she challenges the ‘no boys’ rule and must find and return a half-human, half-pixie childhood playmate to Fairyland before the next full moon.

Trouble is, he’s no longer the sweet and charming ‘Boy’ she fondly remembers. Now he’s a man, all grown up, and not a very friendly one at that. What’s worse, he’s got a devious fiancée who may just be a real wicked witch plotting to do him and her whole clan terrible harm!

With the help of Boy’s cantankerous father, Pixie must convince him to shrink to fairy size and return with her to Fairyland. And if he does, will he agree to stay as her mate?

A sweet and magical romance, PIXIE is available now in ebook and print through Penumbra Publishing and partner online retailers.

Wow, Willa, what an intriguing world! One for the TBR piles, for sure!  Thank you so much for being a part of The 30 Days of Kay(e)s Blogfest! Where can we find you on the web?

Ooh, and one last exciting word from Willa: I will be giving away up to three ebooks from Penumbra Publishing's catalog, via coupon downloads from This will allow winners to download whatever format works best for their reading device. 

Another giveaway, folks!  Woot!  To enter, leave a comment on Willa’s post with your email address.  Three winners will be contacted tomorrow by email and will need to notify Willa of their title choice from the catalog—she will then send you the coupon codes for free downloads.

Thanks again to Willa!  And thanks for reading!
Laura & Willa


Laura Kaye said...

A great big welcome to Willa Kaye Danes! Thanks for being here today!

Folks, please remember to leave your email address to enter to win one of THREE ebooks!!!

desere_steenberg said...

The post was stunning thank you so much for sharing I am always looking for "new" authors to discover and read and you sure got my attention !

Stunning contest thank you for the chance to win !


Cath said...

You both make writing sound so easy although I know it isn't because I've tried. This is excellent information and at some point I may be able to put it to good use, maybe in my next life :/
Thanks for keeping us entertained with your labor.

Gwynn E. Ambrose said...

Willa Kaye, just dropping in to say say HEY - and thanks for the tips! Without tension and suspense, even the best story can fizzle. Your book is totally sweet!


Willa Kaye Danes said...

Thanks all of you for your kind comments. For those of you who want to write but don't think you can, remember, you have to start somewhere. If ideas are rolling around in your head and won't leave you alone, just begin with by writing the first word, the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first chapter ... and keep going till you're done.

Willa Kaye

Laura Kaye said...

Thanks for dropping by everyone! And Willa is so right. Don't think of it as Writing. A. Book. Which is intimidating even when you've done it before. If you compartmentalize it and think of it in those incremental steps Willa mentioned, it becomes a much more manageable prospect, something you can visualize. And, since we ALL have stories to tell, never hesitate to tell YOURS!


desere_steenberg said...

Thanks for the reminder Laura I cant believe I forgot

Andrea said...

Thanks for the great post Willa Kaye & Laura Kaye. Im not a writer, but it's always cool to learn about your process.

Laura Kaye said...

@Desere and @Andrea - thanks for stopping by! Andrea - I was always curious to know what was going on in writers' minds when writing the stories I loved. Glad you thought it cool! :)

Laura Kaye said...

The winners of a Penumbra Publishing ebook are Andrea and Desere! I'm shooting Willa your emails so you can work with her to choose titles from Penumbra's catalog! Congrats!