Have you ever crossed a wooden plank bridge that you fear will collapse, but you need to cross? No? Neither have I, but we’ve all seen such a scenario in movies or stepped gingerly across a balance beam, or walked across a fallen log with hands held out to either side. You wobble as you go, trying to keep your body perfectly in-line, fearing the slightest loss of balance that could send you tumbling. Falling might not be as disastrous on the log in the woods as it would be on the rickety bridge over the ravine, but it would still hurt.
Different situations may vary from feeling like the log to feeling like the rickety bridge. As you try to balance, make all the right decisions and keep yourself safely erect, the slightest twitch the wrong way could cause the collapse of everything. Right now, the balance for me is between studying (wow, less than a month until finals?!), writing a NaNoWriMo novel, and that little activity called keeping friends. As my followers may have noticed, my balance has been skewed slightly to one side as my blogging decreased drastically in the past few days. But for now, I am placing one foot in front of the other and not falling to my death in the river below because it’s just a little log a few feet above the ground. My life certainly wouldn’t make for an interesting read though.
I think many writers strive to put their characters into situations that feel more like the rickety bridge, perhaps with a few planks missing. A suspenseful story where the slightest loss of balance between events could cause a complete melt-down is exactly what keeps readers turning pages.
The story I’m currently working on resembles the log, sometimes it’s a log that’s held a few feet above the ground, but the lack of danger is an enormous problem. Instead I long to switch to a story with danger around every turn; an assassin organization instead of lurking fate.
However, the only way to get to the other side of the ravine is to persevere, so I’ll keep writing and maybe that log will be linking two sides of a narrow ravine.
Do you have any favorite elements of suspense in books that make you unable to sleep because of concern for fictional characters?