Lee Child On How To Create Suspense

Lee Child, author of the uber-popular Jack Reacher series, says he firmly believes writers should write that they want to write: "Do what you want to do, not what you should do." And although he believes writing cannot be taught, he did share his thoughts about how to create suspense and what makes a great book.
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Lee Child, author of the uber-popular Jack Reacher series, says he firmly believes writers should write that they want to write: "Do what you want to do, not what you should do." And although he believes writing cannot be taught, he did share his thoughts about how to create suspense and what makes a great book.

Lee Child at ThrillerFest 08

"All books are suspenseful, even the driest nonfiction," Child says. "It's about asking a question and making the reader wait until the end for the answer. It's like asking, 'how do you make your family hungry?' Well, you make them wait!

"The very act of asking a question makes people want to stick around and find out the answer. The power of asking a question is enormous."

He says that when authors are writing thriller and suspense novels, creating suspense, when you, the author already know the outcome, it feels banal, transparent and ridiculous. "But you have to do it," Child says. "You have to stick to it until the last page."

Child also says an author should always write the book he wants to write and never conform to formulaic writing. "All you can do is deliver a living, breathing book," he says. "If you produce a book you like that is organic, vital and the work of one mind, it will have a spark, it will have a heart to it, and other people will like it, too."

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