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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 materialized first on The Write Practice.

Have you ever felt cheated when reading a book? Like the author held back information that would have enhanced your predict suffer? Or forgotten to include all the relevant items that would have allowed you to solve the mystery? Did the string of events in the legend feel . . . off?

sequence of events in a story

Think about this 😛 TAGEND

What if J.K. Rowling neglected to have Hagrid tell Harry about his parents’ extinctions 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 triumph as a crew in The Hunger Games?

Leaving out these vital pieces of information–or set them in the wrong place–would have cheated these stories of a full measure of suspense, gloomy the effects of its final scenes.

As a writer, you never want books to feel chiselled or disappointed by your notebook. But how are you able make sure you include all the relevant cases of the riddle, in the chastise prescribe, to sustain suspense and satisfy your book?

The Sequence of Events in a Story Makes a Difference

The chronological order of events in a narration is not always the best way to deliver the information to the reader. I recollect speaking passings in William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily in a college literature track. 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 shy about trying to imitate the advanced technique he is set out in A Rose for Emily. He began his narrative at the penultimate minute of the story–Emily’s funeral–and then put-upon flashbacks, climbing back and forth in time, giving his viewpoint character relate the series of events until the final, divulging scene.

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

Since then, I’ve studied and experimented with various methods for delivering information to the reader. In this article, I’ll share styles you can develop your own techniques for building sure your reader gets all the parts of the riddle, in optimal seek, to achieve the effect you desire.

“ Join Joslyn Chase as she schools how you are eligible to make sure your reader gets all the fragments of puzzle, in optimal succession, to build suspense in your bible. Tweet this

Please keep in head that all the skills and techniques of being an effective scribe are intertwined, absurd to fully isolate.

I’m attempting to pull out the various topics for the purpose of teaching. The proper sequencing of contests in a storey is very tied up with using engaging deep POV items, developing a sympathetic character , establishing identifiable bets , 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 influences go into making this happen. One of the most critical components is information flow–when a writer delivers everything the book needs to know, in a timely fashion.

Given the correct information, at the right time, books should be able to follow the rising action, determine relevance, and prophesy possible upshots, making them interact with story incidents and personas in a real way. This is important, whether you’re telling a joke, restyling a fairy story, or writing a composite novel.

An effective flow of information countenances readers to forget they’re reading, and only 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, stamping place and defining from within your viewpoint character’s head, rather than describing from an external perspective. Likewise, make sure you engage your reader’s spirits with a central reputation they can support and something crucial at stake.

You might think of these steps like lodging the seatbelt that fastens readers in and cooks them for the twists and turns ahead.

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

Suspense, Surprise, and Curiosity

How a novelist tells the events in a scene can determine a reader’s response to the story.

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

Darren trims the damper direction on Flora’s car. Flora leaves the house and soars into her car. Flora starts the car and controls it down the mountain pass. Flora’s car starts the picket railways and she crashes to her fatality.

Suspense depends upon catering something for the book to worry about and delaying the outcome, imparting them time to suffer and anticipate. So, one path you might order phenomena to foster suspense by croaking right down the schedule, events one to four.

As readers, we determine Darren tamper with the restraint direction 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 anxiety and anticipation change. What will happen? Will she find a way to stop the car from careening over a face? Right up until the moment the car sinks over the edge, we wonder if she’ll throw herself clear or stop the car somehow.

If you’re going for surprise, however, a better appearance would begins with the second largest event.

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

Depending on how long you contribute Flora to wrestle with the car, we either don’t have time to prepare for the startle as Flora skippers over the cliff, or we get a little buildup of apprehension as we are looking forward she experiences a style to save herself. Either way, the tale situation resolves when the information in the first event is revealed to the reader.

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

We receive Flora’s car crash and explode into a fiery lump. We ask why did this happen? Was it the event of accidents or murder? Who is responsible? How did they reach it? A reader’s curiosity rises and carries them forward while suspense buds as the answers–revealed in happenings one, two, and three–are delayed.

It’s a good sentiment to incorporate a few surprises into your fib, and to use curiosity to perk questions in your reader. But uncertainty spawns the best mainstay. The apprehension of danger is more emotionally involving than the chance itself.

“ The cycle of episodes in a fib ascertain three modalities that entertain books: suspense, surprise, or interest. But, apprehension realise the best mainstay. Learn why in this post! Tweet this

Sudden violence electrifies but can’t sustain an emotional gist and lessens with duplication and span. Curiosity will weave, if it’s not backed up by expectation. These three modalities together make a great team, but make expectation be the primary driving force in your story.

Whichever you choose as your main modality for cover each scene, uncertainty 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 organized on a Myth/ Reality basis. Here’s one of the Myths she keeps forth 😛 TAGEND

Withholding information for the Big Reveal is what keeps books hooked.

And here’s the Reality:

Withholding information very frequently cheats the story of what really robs readers.

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

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

First, I’ll sketch out a scene where I’ve withheld some information, picturing to better surprise my reader with it last-minute 😛 TAGEND

Gerald sees a put-upon car dealership and checks out several simulates. He elects an old-time Mustang, but the slick dealer tries to interest him in a Corvette.

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

Gerald is not astonished. The auto makes a knocking voice and rides lower on the chassis than it should. He thinks about taking a second look–popping the punk, checking out the trunk–but decides it’s not worth his time.

The piece of information I maintained from the reader is that the marketer has seized a woman and has her restraint and tie in the trunk of the Mustang. He’s ready to delivery her when his workday ends.

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

But, I ponder I are able to obtain more mileage out of it–and more suspense–by let the book only knew the main victims beforehand.

That way, every subtlety during the sales talk, every lump on the test drive, and that moment when Gerald thinks about opening up the stem are rampant with apprehension, producing the reader to anticipate possible outcomes.

The Standard Murder Mystery

As novelists, we get to choose which happens to include, and how to tell them. In a standard murder mystery, the main events might undo like this 😛 TAGEND

Something happens to give the murderer a motive Assassin makes a plan and obtains a artillery Murderer kills the main victims Someone detects the body The detective arrives on the representation and starts accumulating evidences The detective construes clues and expands police investigations The detective solves the crime

Writers can represent occasions in that line-up, but it’s often more interesting to mix them up. Choosing to discover the origin of the motive toward the end of the story will build anticipation and keep the reader reckon about the “why” of the crime.

It’s intriguing how past happens have devastating, far-reaching influences, and the prospect of discovering that precipitating event tractions readers.

Two Practises to Study Sequence of Events in a Story

Let’s look at two utilizations that will help you understand more about how to require episodes in a floor 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 affairs are ordered to created apprehension and peak drastic aftermath, is to use a Chronology Columns exercise. This will help you understand how generators introduced episodes to their books in the legends you admire.

Start by creating a worksheet with two pieces. This will serve as a kind of graphic organizer. Open events into the left-hand column as the author presented them in the legend. In the right-hand column, guild happens as they really 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 narration see so unconnected and puzzle, yet when you are familiar with the impetus behind them, the inexplicable constructs appreciation. 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 affairs in the storey Flight Plan. I like to use what I call a Chronology Column to determine this.

The death of Kyle’s husband started no appreciation to her. She hadn’t seen signals that indicated he might make his working life. While in that bereaved and amazed nation, 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 bringing of clues results us down a direction to reckon Kyle must be delusional. But when she breathes on the window and watches her daughter’s soul, we know we must search for answers in a new direction.

The big-hearted uncover comes when Carson rends out the liner of the coffin, disclosing the bombards. That starts a rapid piecing together of happens that takes us on a magnificent go to the finish line.

Do you see how the writers set happenings to capitalize on suspense? They expended all three modalities–surprise when Julia disappears, interest when we wonder what happened to her, and apprehension as the seams developed and the outcome is delayed.

Do you be seen to what extent you might order the events in your legend to achieve a same accomplish? Take some time to study tales you detected captivating, retell them, analyze them with this exercise, to see how the author posed happens versus their chronological order.

2. Micro View of Detail Exercise

We’ve examined the big picture of how happens were laid down by in the movie Flight Plan. But there’s more to effective information spring than the order of operations. Within each happening, each panorama, you need to be constantly shepherding the story factors, 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 affairs 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 intend, let’s walk through the opening representations of Flight Plan to see how it demonstrates viewers what they need in order to predict and envision outcomes.

Flight Plan Case Study Exercise Two: Micro View of Details

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

Her husband arrives, and she takes his hand, but the remote point of view and camera directions 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 head bodyguards her to an open coffin, and we ascertain her husband’s body laid down by. We understand he was killed in a fall when the lead defends, interpreting there had been some damage to his head. He instructs Kyle to enter an electronic code, shutting the casket for move, and we know she’ll be accompanying his organization back home.

As Kyle leaves the morgue, she is again joined by her husband, and we understand that he appears only in her curiosity, helping 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 requests him if they can sit in the courtyard. As she clears snow from the bench, blackbirds fly and she gapes up to the roof. We imagine that’s where he precipitated to his death.

In the suite, she lies in bed with her young daughter, relieving and reassuring her, concluding the drapes against strangers who might intrude. We feel her maternal ability to adore and protect.

The apartment is bare, everything compressed into boxes. There is a bleak, bereft feeling. Kyle makes some pills. We understand they’re some kind of prescription to help her through. We get a glimpse of her employee stamp and know she works for Elgin Aircraft.

As the scenes unfold, little things reveal important chips of information and raise questions so we’ll continue watching to find more flecks of information. Delivering those flecks on the right timeline and in the right order is what obstructs us assimilated in the story.

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

“ Learn how to build suspense in your journal by organizing the sequence of happens in a storey. This announce 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 courage. The reader needs to be able to identify more than one potential outcome, ideally at least one positive and one negative. Worry increases when the negative aftermath seems the most likely, especially as you raise the stakes , increasing the odds against your hero.

Readers are hardwired to predict what’s going to happen in a storey, and they revise their assumptions 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, applying foreshadowing and well-planted setups so that the eventual outcome feels natural and logical.

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

Suspense, the Renewable Resource

There is an emotional factor in anticipating an outcome–either dread or agitation. That’s what obligates it possible for us to read, watch, or listen to the retelling of a story more than once and again enjoy it. The elements of suspense are still at work, triggering the emotions of apprehension, because the book is an active participant.

Whether you’re working on a short story, a story, 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 streak of articles, you become empowered to create huge floors parcelled with uncertainty. Something that will thrill readers and keep them coming back for more.

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

Not exclusively will you learn a lot, but you’ll be teaching your writer’s brain to deliver information to your reader in effective actions, honing your sequencing skills.

Be sure to bookmark this page and abide tuned! The next section is all about cliffhangers–you don’t want to miss it!

Do you use the sequence of events in a storey to engage a specific emotion in the book? How do you do this? Let us know in the explains.


Let’s focus on the sequencing activities in your opening. Consuming the fib meaning and attribute you’ve developed for the book you’re writing in conjunction with this series, think about the micro flowing of details you’re affording books from the beginning.

Are you foreseeing your reader’s needs? What details must they have at this level in the story to keep them turning sheets? What should you tell them to raise questions now and promise rebuts 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 “youve finished”, if you just wanted to, you may post your work in the comments. And don’t forget to give your fellow scribes some feedback and inducement!

The article Sequence of Events in a Story: How to Order Scenes That Build Suspense emerged first on The Write Practice. The Write Practice – The Online Writing Workbook

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