Whether you are creating a one scene art piece or a full-length comic, one important way to engage your viewer is to create suspense. Suspense is a feeling that is created within the viewer, and as the artist, you can implement certain techniques to encourage the feeling, but you will not know how well you have succeeded until the viewer has the chance to interact with and assess the work.
Suspense is a fascinating literary device because it can be created in countless ways like the way in which the setting, character interactions, timing, events, etc. are developed.
To create a suspenseful setting, you need to develop unsettling details that will throw your viewer or reader off. You can achieve these by creating a single focal point like a door that is cracked open when it should be closed or a table that is overturned in an otherwise spotless room. The weather will also play a role in setting a suspenseful scene. Whether you are painting this oddly placed item or describing it, make sure you ensure your viewer or reader understands that the item has been disturbed.
Perhaps the strongest device to create suspense is foreshadowing. By placing a few hints about the conflicts that your characters will face in the future for your readers or viewers to notice early on in the story or in the piece will provide them with a sense of dread. Knowing that something is going to happen to the characters that they can’t change is a powerful image that can create an equally powerful feeling in your audience.
In writing, you also have the power of your language to help create suspense. One way to do this is to use staccato language. Varying your sentence length in a way that draws attention to certain troubling words and phrases can help your reader focus on negative feelings and emotions that can create suspense. Using these words and phrases at the ends of pages and chapters are especially useful because you have helped to create a physical barrier for the reader that will carry the suspense over a defined period of time.
First person narration is also a great way to create suspense. When the reader knows exactly how the character is experiencing the setting and interactions is feeling he or she is able to place themselves in the character’s place. Any feelings the character is experiencing can be transferred to the reader.
When characters have negative interactions, suspense is also created. Interactions that result in anger or fear can create similar feelings in readers, especially when the interactions that are described are realistic and the reader can place themselves in those same types of scenarios. The way supporting characters are described for the reader will play a big part in setting the tone for interactions, so planning out each character in a way that makes them believable is another important task for the writers.