Sequence of Events in a Story: How to Order Scenes That Build Suspense

The article Sequence of Events in a Story: How to Order Scenes That Build Suspense loomed first on The Write Practice.

Have you ever felt misled when reading a book? Like the author held back information that would have enhanced your see know? Or neglected to include all the relevant items that would have allowed you to solve the mystery? Did the sequence of contests in the narration feel . . . off?

sequence of events in a story

Think about this 😛 TAGEND

What if J.K. Rowling forgot to have Hagrid tell Harry about his parents’ deaths until the end of The Sorcerer’s Stone?

What if “the authors ” of Die Hard had let Hans Gruber discover Holly was John McClane’s wife right up front?

What if Suzanne Collins had forgotten to alert books to a rule change allowing tributes from the same district to prevail as a unit in The Hunger Games?

Leaving out these vital pieces of information–or arrange them in the wrong place–would have stripped these narrations of a full measure of suspense, dulling the effects of its final scenes.

As a novelist, you never want books to feel misled or disappointed by your bible. But how are you able make sure you include all the relevant bits of the mystify, in the redres dictate, to sustain suspense and fill your book?

The Sequence of Events in a Story Makes a Difference

The chronological order of events in a tale is not always the best way to deliver the information to the reader. I remember reading pieces in William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily in a college literature route. I felt struck by the way Faulkner moved his narrative around in time, creating a complex, multi-dimensional reading experience.

Faulkner was a master, and worthy of study, though I’d be unsure about trying to imitate the advanced technique he used in A Rose for Emily. He began his narrative at the penultimate moment of the story–Emily’s funeral–and then used flashbacks, rushing back and forth in time, making his viewpoint character relate the series of events until the final, disclosing scene.

My main takeaway from this was that novelists are unstuck in time, able to move around and present the events of a fib to the reader in various ways. I became fascinated by the subject.

Since then, I’ve studied and experimented with various methods used for delivering information to the reader. In this article, I’ll share practices you can develop your own techniques for starting sure your reader gets all the cases of the problem, in optimal succession, to achieve the effect you desire.

“ Join Joslyn Chase as she educates how you can make sure your reader gets all the bits of puzzle, in optimal dictate, to build suspense in your book. Tweet this

Please be maintained in recollection that all the skills and techniques of being an effective writer are intertwined, inconceivable to fully isolate.

I’m attempting to pull out the various topics for the purpose of teaching. The proper sequencing of affairs in a narrative is very tied up with using engaging deep POV details, developing a sympathetic character , establishing identifiable stakes , and foreshadowing .

The Reader as an Active Participant

Readers get the most satisfaction from reading a story when they are engaged as active participants. Many ingredients go into making this happen. One of the most critical components is information flow–when a writer delivers everything the book wished to know, in a timely fashion.

Given the right information, at the right time, books should be able to follow the rising action, guess important, and predict possible outcomes, making them interact with story affairs and attributes in a real way. “Its important”, whether you’re telling a joke, restyling a fairy tale, or writing a composite novel.

An effective flow of information permits readers to forget they’re reading, and time be inside the story. Because everything they need is delivered just as they need it , nothing boots them out of the fictive experience.

It’s imperative to establish depth, characterizing stage and placing from inside your viewpoint character’s head, rather than describing from an external attitude. Too, make sure you engage your reader’s emotions with a prime courage they can support and something crucial at stake.

You might think of these steps like lodging the seatbelt that leashes readers in and devises them for the turns and turns ahead.

Let’s take a look at how sequencing phenomena in a legend will allow you to engage the three modalities that entertain readers and move the narrative forward.

Suspense, Surprise, and Curiosity

How a writer lineup the events in a scene can determine a reader’s response to the story.

There are three main responses a reader could feel: expectation, surprise, or curiosity. Let’s examine this by changing around the order of the following entry four occasions in a scene 😛 TAGEND

Darren pieces the restraint indication on Flora’s car. Flora leaves the house and clambers into her vehicle. Flora starts the car and steers it down the mountain pass. Flora’s car mounts the protect rail and she crashes to her extinction.

Suspense depends upon rendering something for the reader are concerned about and delaying the outcome, paying them is necessary to agonize and anticipate. So, one road you might order occurrences to foster suspense by disappearing right down the directory, occasions one to four.

As readers, we hear Darren tamper with the restraint route and we feel Flora’s peril as she leaves the house and gets into the car, unaware of what awaits her. As she starts down the mountain pass, our concern and apprehension grow. What will happen? Will she find a way to stop the car from careening over a face? Right up until the moment the car slumps over the edge, we wonder if she’ll throw herself clear or stop the car somehow.

If you’re going for surprise, nonetheless, a better lecture would start with the second event.

We see Flora leave the house and drive down the mountain. We’re surprised when the car picks up hasten, veering out of control, and Flora detects the brakes don’t work.

Depending on how long you commit Flora to wrestle with the car, we either don’t have time to prepare for the disturbance as Flora voyages over the cliff, or we get a little buildup of apprehension as we hope she discovers a style to save herself. Either way, the fib place resolves when the information in the first event is revealed to the reader.

On the other hand, you could leverage curiosity by starting with the fourth event.

We verify Flora’s car gate-crash and explode into a fiery clod. We ask why did this happen? Was it an accident or murder? Who is responsible? How did they fulfill it? A reader’s interest rises and carries them forward while anticipation blooms as the answers–revealed in incidents one, two, and three–are delayed.

It’s a good notion to incorporate a few surprises into your tale, and to use curiosity to perk the issues of your book. But uncertainty does the best mainstay. The prospect of danger is more emotionally involving than the danger itself.

“ The sequence of happens in a narration specify three modalities that entertain books: suspense, surprise, or curiosity. But, apprehension clears the best mainstay. Learn why in this post! Tweet this

Sudden violence electrifies but can’t sustain an feelings result and diminishes with repetition and period. Curiosity will fluctuate, if it’s not backed up by anticipation. These three modalities together make a great team, but cause anticipation be the primary driving force in your story.

Whichever you choose as your main modality for administer each representation, anticipation will play into it as readers receive information and use it to formulate projections about what will happen next.

Don’t Withhold Important Information

Lisa Cron’s book Wired for Story, is structured on a Myth/ Reality basis. Here’s one of the Myths she articulates forth 😛 TAGEND

Withholding information for the Big Reveal is what deters readers hooked.

And here’s the Reality:

Withholding information very often cheats the story of what really fastens readers.

She follows up by tell, “If we don’t know there’s intrigue afoot, then there is no intrigue afoot.”

To get a better idea of what this means, let’s try an experiment.

First, I’ll sketch out a scene where I’ve withheld some information, conceiving to better surprise my reader with it later 😛 TAGEND

Gerald trips a put-upon auto dealership and checks out several sits. He selects an old-time Mustang, but the slick pusher tries to interest him in a Corvette.

Finally, the reluctant trader lets Gerald take the motor of the Mustang as they go out for a test drive.

Gerald is not impressed. The vehicle makes a knocking resonate and goes lower on the framework than it should. He thinks about taking a second look–popping the hood, checking out the trunk–but decides it’s not worth his time.

The piece of information I maintained from the reader is that the pusher has seized a woman and has her gagged and bound in the trunk of the Mustang. He’s ready to tote her when his workday ends.

By withholding that information until the end of the place, I could get a decent cliffhanger with a surprise outcome. I could have the marketer wait until Gerald leaves and then open the trunk to show the frightened maiden inside. Not bad.

But, I envision I are able to obtain more mileage out of it–and more suspense–by letting the reader only knew the main victims beforehand.

That way, every subtlety during the sales talk, every protrusion on the test drive, and that time when Gerald thinks about opening up the case are rife with suspense, conducting the reader to anticipate possible outcomes.

The Standard Murder Mystery

As columnists, we get to choose which affairs to include, and how to guild them. In a standard murder mystery, the main events might develop like this 😛 TAGEND

Something happens to give the murderer a motivating Murderer makes a plan and obtains a artillery Murderer kills the main victims Someone detects their own bodies The detective arrives on the incident and starts collecting evidences The detective construes clues and expands police investigations The detective solves the crime

Writers can acquaint affairs in that guild, but it’s often more interesting to mix them up. Choosing to reveal the ancestry of the motivating toward the end of the story will improve anticipation and keep the reader reckon about the “why” of the crime.

It’s intriguing how past happenings have ravaging, far-reaching effects, and the prospect of discovering that precipitating event grips readers.

Two Exercisings to Study Sequence of Events in a Story

Let’s look at two exercisings that will help you understand more about how to succession incidents in a tale to achieve the effect you want.

One of the exercises–the study of chronology versus presentation–examines the overall big picture.

The other exercise–dealing with the flow of details–focuses on the micro view.

1. Chronology Columns Exercise

One way to determine the roots of a crime and study how happens are ordered to created expectation and peak stunning consequence, is to use a Chronology Columns exercise. This will help you understand how columnists demonstrated affairs to their books in the floors you admire.

Start by creating a worksheet with two editorials. This will serve as a kind of graphic organizer. Enter happenings into the left-hand column as the author presented them in the floor. In the right-hand column, line-up affairs as they actually happened. Last, study the interplay between the two lines.

As an example, let’s do a basic Chronology Column exercise for the movie Flight Plan.

I chose Flight Plan because the events in the narrative show so unconnected and paradoxical, yet when you are familiar with the impetus behind them, the inexplicable draws sense. It’s interesting to see how that is accomplished.


Flight Plan Case Study Exercise One: Chronology Columns

Here is a graphic that shows the sequence of phenomena in the narrative Flight Plan. I like to use what I call a Chronology Column to determine this.

The death of Kyle’s husband originated no ability to her. She hadn’t seen signals that indicated he might take his working life. While in that bereaved and amazed territory, her daughter is taken away from her as well, further battering her, emotionally.

Viewers, along with Kyle, try to figure out what’s really going on, located upon the information that comes to light. That delivery of evidences guides us down a route to remember Kyle must be delusional. But when she breathes on the window and examines her daughter’s middle, we know we must search for answers in a brand-new direction.

The big disclose comes when Carson rips out the lining of the coffin, uncovering the devices. That starts a rapid piecing together of happenings that makes us on a striking go to the finish line.

Do you see how the writers agreed happens to capitalize on suspense? They exploited all three modalities–surprise when Julia disappears, curiosity when we wonder what happened to her, and expectation as the mantles developed and the outcome is delayed.

Do you be seen to what extent you might order the events in your story to achieve a same aftermath? Take some time to study narrations you spotted dazzling, retell them, analyze them with this exercise, to see how the author displayed occurrences versus their chronological order.

2. Micro View of Detail Exercise

We’ve examined the big picture of how happenings were laid down by in the movie Flight Plan. But there’s more to effective message flood than the order of operations. Within each happen, each background, you need to be constantly shepherding the floor points, delivering relevant information and raising brand-new questions to give readers what they need to actively participate in the story.

As an exercise, try watching the opening of a movie and detailing the sequence of occurrences to see what you learn from it. I’ve done this with Die Hard, Back to The Future, The Sixth Sense, Raiders of The Lost Ark, The Terminator, and Flight Plan.

To show what I symbolize, let’s walk through the opening backgrounds of Flight Plan to see how it presents viewers what they need in order to predict and apprehend outcomes.

Flight Plan Case Study Exercise Two: Micro View of Item

The movie opens with Kyle Pratt sitting alone on a Berlin metro platform. Her frozen stance and the look on her face tell us she’s fright, wrestling with some immense trauma. Curiosity gives us as we begin to wonder what it is.

Her husband arrives, and she takes his hand, but the distant point of view and camera slants make it feel weird. We believe all is not as it seems and wonder what’s going on.

She arrives, alone again, at the morgue. The lead bodyguards her to an open coffin, and we picture her husband’s body laid down by. We understand he was killed in a fail when the chairman rationalizes, excusing there had been some damage to his head. He apprise Kyle to enter an electronic system, closing the coffin for shipping, and we know she’ll be accompanying his form back home.

As Kyle leaves the mortuary, she is again joined by her husband, and we understand that he appears only in her curiosity, facilitating her to cope with losing him and being alone in a foreign country during this time of distress. We wonder about the circumstances of his death and what will happen next.

They walk home together, and she queries him if they can sit in the courtyard. As she clears snow from the bench, blackbirds fly and she ogles up to the roof. We imagine that’s where he fell to his death.

In the apartment, she lies in berthed with her young daughter, solacing and reassuring her, closing the drapes against strangers who might intrude. We feel her maternal impulse to enjoy and protect.

The apartment is naked, everything carried into chests. There is a bleak, bereft feeling. Kyle takes some capsules. We understand they’re some kind of prescription to help her through. We get a glimpse of her work stamp and know she works for Elgin Aircraft.

As the representations developed, little things reveal important flakes of information and raise questions so we’ll continue watching to find more parts of information. Delivering those bits on the right timeline and in the right order is what impedes us absorbed in the story.

You can do the same thing with your narrative, working these two exercises–the Chronology Columns and the Micro View of Details–to help you study and organize episodes to create the effect you require. Or troubleshoot a scene that isn’t working. Or simply learn from the masters.

“ Learn how to build suspense in your book by organizing the cycle of events in a narration. This affix uses the movie Flight Plan to study this. Tweet this More Ways Than One

Suspense works best when you set up multiple possibilities for your reputation. The reader needs to be able to identify more than one potential sequel, ideally at least one positive and one negative. Worry increases when the negative aftermath seems the more likely, especially as you raise the ventures , increasing the odds against your hero.

Readers are hardwired to predict what’s going to happen in a fib, and they revamp their possibilities as the narration progresses. As writers, we have the power to disclose information in a way that will guide their prognosis in a particular direction.

We can make it look like the undesired outcome is more liable to happen. At the same time, we make it difficult to imagine how the desired outcome could ever be achieved. We do this by the way we deliver intelligence, using foreshadowing and well-planted setups so that the eventual outcome feels natural and logical.

In future sections, we’ll take a closer look at how to use foreshadowing, clues, red herring, and other maneuvers to enhance story sequence and direct the reader’s attention where we want it.

Suspense, the Renewable Resource

There is an feelings factor in anticipating an outcome–either fright or enthusiasm. That’s what stimulates it possible for us to read, watch, or listen to the retelling of a tale more than once and again enjoy it. The elements of suspense are still at work, sparking the spirits of prospect, because the book is an active participant.

Whether you’re working on a short story, a romance, or anything in between, when you build your writer’s toolbox by studying and practicing the common core of skills you’ve learned from this line of articles, you become empowered to create immense floors carried with uncertainty. Something that will thrill books and keep them coming back for more.

I encourage you to try the two exercisings I outlined in this article: Chronology Columns and Micro View of Details.

Not simply will you learn a lot, but you’ll be studying your writer’s brain to deliver information to your reader in effective access, sharpening your sequencing skills.

Be sure to bookmark this page and bide carolled! The next essay is all about cliffhangers–you don’t want to miss it!

Do you use the sequence of contests in a fib to hire a specific emotion in the book? How do you do this? Let us know in the explains.


Let’s focus on the sequencing the actions of your opening. Utilizing the fib thought and reference you’ve developed for the book you’re writing in conjunction with this series, “ve been thinking about” the micro flood of details you’re supplying books from the beginning.

Are you foreseeing your reader’s needs? What details must they have at this top in the fib to keep them turning sheets? What should you tell them to raise questions now and predict explanations down the road?

Read aloud. It helps you come at your own work from a reader’s perspective.

Spend fifteen minutes writing this opening.

When you’re done, examine the opening and revise as necessary to provide a clear and compelling flow of information. When you are finished, if you want to, you may post your work in the observes. And don’t forget to give your fellow novelists some feedback and impetu!

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