The Bones Of Suspense

So dear hubby and I got into a debate last night, and I would like any and all readers to weigh in their opinion on this issue. As some of you may recall, I mentioned that I was going to be writing some scenes from the POV of my bad guy for Houses of Cards. Now, I opted to do this in such a way that you know the name (or at least his nom de jour, since he’s had many) of the killer from the first of those scenes, but you do not know his connection to Kensie, why he is obsessed with her, who he’s killed, or what the details are of this game he has picked her to play. To me the mystery is in the game and whether she’ll win it or not, as well as figuring out who this character is to her. D.H. is of the opinion that knowing the killer’s name from the beginning will ruin the suspense of the book and make the big reveal toward the end of who this character is in relation to Kensie fall flat. Some of this is a difference in reading tastes (hubby is more of a horror and fantasy fan most of the time), but I was curious about what all of you prefer as readers (and writers). Would it dim the suspense for you if you knew the name of the bad guy from the front end if you didn’t know all the other details? Or would ye old classic “He” be better for those scenes in his POV? Inquiring minds want to know.

3 thoughts on “The Bones Of Suspense

  1. Hi,

    In my opinion, if you are going to give us scenes from the killer’s pov, why would hiding his name matter? I think the suspense would be in why he chooses the victims he does and how he executes (sorry) his plans. One of the techniques I’ve seen that works very well is when the reader is more aware than the mc. The suspense is in our knowing this guy is a bad guy while she’s having a casual conversation with him, inviting him to lunch. Talk about being on the edge of your seat as she figures it out.

    Of course, if it was to be a big surprise as to who the killer is then yes, hide his name. It really depends which way you want to go. Both will work.


  2. See! I agree with you Carol! The heroine is completely clueless about this guy, so the suspense is in how and when she’s able to figure it out to stop him from taking his next victim. It is a surprise who the killer is simply because he has had multiple names–so the one he currently uses is not the one she knew/knows him by. The reader will definitely know more than she will.

  3. I think if it were the kind of story where the murderer is one of the circle of the MC’s aquaintances, then certainly holding back the name would be important. But if you said the name to your MC and it didn’t mean anything to her, then what’s the point? It seems to me that the _connection_ is what’s much more important than just his name, and since the name you’re giving is a false one anyway, it’s pretty irrelevant. But yeah, I think your husband is thinking of that other kind of murder mystery and that his thinking doesn’t apply here.

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