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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 emerged 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 decipher knowledge? Or forgotten to include all the relevant items that would have allowed you to solve the mystery? Did the string of contests in the story 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 caused Hans Gruber discover Holly was John McClane’s wife right up front?

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

Leaving out these vital pieces of information--or put them in the wrong place--would have looted these floors of a full measure of suspense, gloomy the impact of their final scenes.

As a columnist, you never want readers to feel chiselled or disappointed by your record. But how can you make sure you include all the relevant parts of the perplex, in the chasten guild, to sustain suspense and fulfill your reader?

The Sequence of Events in a Story Makes a Difference

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

Faulkner was a master, and worthy of study, though I’d be cautious 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 ill-used flashbacks, mounting back and forth in time, giving his viewpoint character relate the series of events until the final, uncovering scene.

My main takeaway from this was that writers are unstuck in time, able to move around and present the events of a narrative 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 courses you can develop your own techniques for attaining sure your reader gets all the slice of the perplex, in optimal say, to achieve the effect you desire.

“ Join Joslyn Chase as she coachs how you are eligible to make sure your reader gets all the bits of puzzle, in optimal degree, to build suspense in your work. Tweet this

Please keep in thinker that all the skills and techniques of being an effective columnist are intertwined, impossible to fully isolate.

I’m attempting to pull out the various topics for the purpose of teaching. The proper sequencing of happenings in a narration 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 points go into making this happen. One of the most critical factors 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, estimate important, and predict possible sequels, causing them interact with story phenomena and characters in a real way. This is important, whether you're telling a joke, restyling a fairy story, or writing a complex novel.

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

It’s imperative to establish depth, stamping situation and preparing from inside your viewpoint character’s head, rather than describing from an external view. Too, make sure you engage your reader’s ardours with a prime reputation they can support and something crucial at stake.

You might think of these steps like lodging the seatbelt that belts readers in and plans them for the quirks and turns ahead.

Let’s take a look at how sequencing episodes 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 novelist lineup the events in a scene can determine a reader's response to the story.

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

Darren pieces the restraint thread on Flora’s car. Flora leaves the house and advances into her gondola. Flora starts the car and steers it down the mountain pass. Flora’s car jump-starts the picket railways and she disintegrates to her extinction.

Suspense are dependent upon rendering something for the reader to worry about and delaying the outcome, devoting them time to agonize and anticipate. So, one path you might order events to foster suspense by departing right down the inventory, happenings one to four.

As books, we watch Darren tamper with the damper string and we feel Flora’s peril as she leaves the house and comes into the car, unaware of what awaits her. As she starts down the mountain pass, our concern and apprehension flourish. What happens? Will she find a way to stop the car from careening over a face? Right up until the moment the car plummets 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 largest event.

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

Depending on how long you establish Flora to wrestle with the car, we either don’t have time to prepare for the outrage as Flora sails over the face, or we get a little buildup of uncertainty as we hope she find a way to save herself. Either way, the legend statu resolves when the information in the firstly event is revealed to the reader.

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

We ascertain Flora’s car crash and explode into a fiery ball. We ask why did this happen? Was it an accident or murder? Who is responsible? How did they achieve it? A reader's interest rises and carries them forward while apprehension blossoms as the answers--revealed in happens one, two, and three--are delayed.

It’s a good doctrine to incorporate a few surprises into your legend, and to use curiosity to perk the issues of your reader. But expectation establishes the best mainstay. The anticipation of danger is more emotionally involving than the danger itself.

“ The sequence of episodes in a story judge three modalities that entertain books: expectation, surprise, or curiosity. But, expectation fixes the best mainstay. Learn why in this post! Tweet this

Sudden violence electrifies but can’t sustain an feeling upshot and decreases with redundancy and duration. Curiosity will fluctuate, if it's not backed up by expectation. These three modalities together make a great team, but make anticipation be the primary driving force in your story.

Whichever you choose as your main modality for manage each situation, suspense will play into it as readers receive information and use it to formulate prophecies 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 keeps forth 😛 TAGEND

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

And here’s the Reality:

Withholding information very often robs the story of what really hooks readers.

She follows up by forewarn, “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, imagining to better surprise my reader with it later 😛 TAGEND

Gerald trips a exploited car dealership and checks out several simulates. He espouses an old Mustang, but the slick marketer tries to interest him in a Corvette.

Finally, the reluctant dealer gives Gerald take the rotation of the Mustang as they go out for a test drive.

Gerald is not impressed. The auto makes a knocking clang and razzes lower on the chassis than it should. He thinks about taking a second look--popping the scarf, checking out the trunk--but decides it’s not worth his time.

The piece of information I continued from the book is that the trader has seized a woman and has her restraint and bound in the stalk of the Mustang. He's ready to transport her when his workday ends.

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

But, I think I are able to obtain more mileage out of it--and more suspense--by permit the reader only knew the victim beforehand.

That way, every subtlety during the sales talk, every lump on the test drive, and that minute when Gerald thinks about opening up the stem are abounding with suspense, heading the book to anticipate possible outcomes.

The Standard Murder Mystery

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

Something happens to give the murderer a motive Assassin makes a plan and attains a weapon Assassin kills the victim Someone detects their own bodies The detective arrives on the background and starts gleaning evidences The detective performs evidences and expands his investigation The detective solves the crime

Writers can introduce episodes in that seek, but it’s often more interesting to mix them up. Choosing to reveal the start of the motive toward the end of the story will improve apprehension and keep the reader approximate about the "why" of the crime.

It’s intriguing how past episodes have destroying, far-reaching influences, and the anticipation of discovering that precipitating event grasps readers.

Two Activities to Study Sequence of Events in a Story

Let's look at two exercises that will help you understand more about how to succession occurrences in a legend 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 occurrences are ordered to created anticipation and peak spectacular result, is to use a Chronology Columns exercise. This will help you understand how writers displayed contests to their readers in the stories you admire.

Start by creating a worksheet with two pieces. This will serve as a kind of graphic organizer. Participate phenomena into the left-hand column as the author presented them in the narrative. In the right-hand column, guild events as they actually happened. Last, study the interplay between the two towers.

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 storey seem so unconnected and puzzle, yet when you are familiar with the impetus behind them, the inexplicable impels smell. 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 occasions in the legend Flight Plan. I like to use what I call a Chronology Column to determine this.

The death of Kyle's husband prepared no impression to her. She hadn't seen signalings that indicated he might make his own life. While in that bereaved and mystified 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, based upon the information that comes to light. That bringing of evidences makes us down a course to theory Kyle must be delusional. But when she breathes on the window and participates her daughter's feeling, we know we must search for answers in a new direction.

The big-hearted expose comes when Carson rips out the liner of the coffin, exposing the devices. That starts a rapid piecing together of affairs that takes us on a magnificent ride to the finish line.

Do you see how the writers put contests to capitalize on suspense? They utilized all three modalities--surprise when Julia disappears, curiosity when we wonder what happened to her, and uncertainty as the beds developed and the outcome is delayed.

Do you see how you might order the events in your floor to achieve a similar accomplish? Take some time to study floors you encountered dazzling, retell them, analyze them with this exercise, to see how the author acquainted phenomena versus their chronological order.

2. Micro View of Item Exercise

We’ve examined the big picture of how happenings were laid out in the movie Flight Plan. But there’s more to effective intelligence flow than the order of operations. Within each contest, each place, you need to be constantly shepherding the legend 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 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 situations of Flight Plan is how it causes viewers what they need in order to predict and predict 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 upon her face tell us she’s terrified, fighting 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 suppose 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 ensure her husband’s body laid down by. We understand he was killed in a fail when the head apologizes, illustrating there had been some damage to his head. He apprise Kyle to enter an electronic system, closing the casket for move, and we know she'll be accompanying his figure back home.

As Kyle leaves the mortuary, she is again joined by her husband, and we understand that he appears only in her resource, facilitating her to cope with losing him and left 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 inspects up to the roof. We imagine that’s where he descended to his death.

In the apartment, she lies in berthed with her young daughter, relieving and secure her, closing the draperies against strangers who might intrude. We feel her maternal instinct to adoration and protect.

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

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

You can do the same thing with your narration, squandering these two exercises--the Chronology Columns and the Micro View of Details--to help you study and organize affairs 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 string of occasions in a fib. This post 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 book needs to be able to identify more than one possible sequel, ideally at least one positive and one negative. Worry increases when the negative upshot seems the more 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 tale, and they revamp their beliefs as the narrative progresses. As novelists, 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 message, abusing foreshadowing and well-planted setups so that the eventual outcome feels natural and logical.

In future clauses, we’ll take a closer look at how to use foreshadowing, clues, diversionary tactic, 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 horror or pleasure. That’s what obliges 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, inspiring the spirits of anticipation, because the book is an active participant.

Whether you're working on a short story, a novel, or anything in between, when you construct your writer’s toolbox by studying and rehearsing the common core of abilities you’ve learned from this succession of articles, you become empowered to create enormous fibs jam-pack with uncertainty. Something that will thrill readers and keep them coming back for more.

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

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

Be sure to bookmark this sheet and abide tuned! The next article is all about cliffhangers--you don’t want to miss it!

Do you use the sequence of events in a floor to involve a specific emotion in the reader? How do you do this? Let us know in the mentions.


Let’s focus on the sequencing the actions of your opening. Employing the narration mind and attribute you’ve developed for the book you’re writing in conjunction with this series, "ve been thinking about" the micro overflow of details you’re plying books from the beginning.

Are you predicting your reader’s needs? What items must they have at this phase in the storey to keep them turning pages? 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 want to, you may post your work in the notes. And don’t forget to give your fellow novelists some feedback and inspiration!

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

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