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What makes a great suspense story?

Banished Threads by Kaylin McFarrenThe following is a guest post by Kaylin McFarren, author of Banished Threads, the third book in the Threads series. If you would like to write a guest post on my blog, please send me an e-mail at

Even though I’ve written four romantic suspense novels during the last five years, I truly don’t consider myself to be an expert in this crazy wordsmithing business. Perhaps I will after book twenty hits the shelves. However, in the meantime, I remain a devoted student, eager to learn and to share my knowledge with new, up-and-coming writers. One suggestion that immediately comes to mind is to begin your story by stating what’s at stake while providing a glimpse at the challenges your hero or heroine are forced to overcome. I love a good mystery and have discovered that mystery authors tend to be more closed mouth and secretive about ultimate sacrifices and goals in their stories. On the other hand, suspense authors risk giving too much away by divulging all the elements of their stories way too early, which makes writing in this particular genre a bit of a balancing act.

Secondly, suspense needs to grow through the actions of a strong protagonist while detouring away from the story’s predictable outcome. This is not an easy task to pull off but allows the author the ability to explore multiple points of view while giving insight into the vulnerabilities or flaws of their characters. The suspense author might even draw sympathy from their readers for the villain who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks or the bitter woman who’s been abandoned all her life and is hesitant to trust an ex-lover.

The ability to see inside the minds of characters in this style of writing makes it possible to add thought processes and complex layers while providing the motivation behind pitting the antagonist against the protagonist. Mystery writers are at a distinct disadvantage in this regard as they’re required to keep the antagonist’s identity hidden to the very last minute to extend the drama and excitement of their stories. But whether mystery or suspense, the trick to mastering a great story is to ensure that the reader ultimately has a thrilling experience.

Read Book Obsessed’s review of Buried Threads, the second book in the Threads series.

Kaylin McFarrenFun Facts About the Author

  • Kaylin McFarren is proud of the fact that her great aunt Bessie B. Cordell, an evangelistic missionary during WWII, was instrumental in opening an orphanage in Tientsin, China and also wrote two published novels, Precious Pearl and Blossoms of the Flowery Kingdom, documenting her dangerous, harrowing experiences.
  • She keeps a glass of wine close by while writing love scenes, Kleenex on her desk while writing heart breakers, and has been known to empty a box of chocolates when she’s completely stumped.
  • A consummate “pantser” and perfectionist, she writes and edits as she goes, and uses photographs of models and actors from tabloid magazines to visualize her characters.
  • She loves her husband of 42 years dearly. However, if Brad Pitt or Orlando Bloom came knockin’, well… their marriage just might be put to the test.

More about the author and her work: Kaylin McFarren’s Website.