Your goal is to keep your reader wanting to know what happens next.
Your strategy is not to tell them--at least not yet. The authors who write thrillers you can’t put down are masters of this method.
As you write your story you can create questions by making the reader wonder:
- Who did something (like send a threatening message).
- Why somebody did something (like apparently betray a best friend).
- What is the meaning of something (such as offering somebody a drink--is it drugged?).
- When something will happen (like a bomb timed to go off).
If you answer those questions as soon as you’ve raised them the suspense goes away immediately. You can delay answering them by:
- Switching to a different character, a different location, a different time
- Providing clues that lead to several possible answers
- Having your character pursue a wrong answer
- Having something even more urgent come up
Don’t wait too long to reveal the answer, or at least part of the answer, or your readers may lose patience and stop reading. But when you do answer one question, make sure you’ve planted another one. This pattern will keep your readers turning the pages.
This is one important thing to consider when you are doing a second draft and it can help to have a trusted friend read the manuscript and tell you where their interest lagged. That would be the point to raise another question that will revive the reader's interest.
(Would you like some friendly guidance writing your book or script? The reason I called my book "Your Writing Coach" is that it's a supportive writing coach in the form of a book and extras you'll find on the book's website. The book is published by Nicholas Brealey and you can get it now from Amazon or your other favorite bookseller.)