Mastering Suspense and Tension

How to create delicious narrative uncertainty at the heart of your story


Tiffany Yates Martin


Live on Aug. 24, 2022, or watch recording


Beginning to intermediate fiction writers


Closed captions by Otter; transcript provided with recording

The appeal of story is the same reason we do a lot of things we enjoy: baking or gardening or bungee jumping. It’s not just to achieve the end product, or we’d go buy a box of doughnuts or an eggplant or just stay on the ground. The journey is the point—those moments of uncertainty. For a few breathless moments you get to experience that thrill: Will the soufflé rise? How big will my eggplant get? Is that cord going to snap in midair?

That’s why we read (or watch) stories. And the crucial tools a writer uses to create that delicious uncertainty are suspense and tension.

Suspense and tension are among the most important elements of readable stories that hook your reader and compel her to turn the page, in every single genre. The terms are often used interchangeably, and they’re intimately related, but suspense is more an element of story and tension an element of scene. Both create a question in the reader’s mind. In oversimplified terms, with suspense it’s “What happens next?” and with tension, “How will the character overcome this obstacle?” And both are crucial to compelling story in every genre, not just suspense novels.

In a detailed exploration into these concepts, career editor Tiffany Yates Martin will show why a lack of tension and suspense may be what’s keeping you from a publishing contract or bestseller list—or simply costing you reader investment. We’ll examine how to determine whether you have enough suspense and tension in your story, along with tips for how to develop these elements so that readers are compelled to keep turning pages.

Filled with practical examples from books, movies, and TV, this workshop will let you wield these powerful tools to amp up your story’s impact and effectiveness and keep readers hooked.

This workshop will cover:

  • The difference between suspense and tension, and how they work in tandem in every genre
  • How to use questions to create that delicious narrative uncertainty at the heart of suspense
  • How to create both overarching suspense as well as within each scene to keep stakes high, readers hooked, and momentum strong
  • The six main types of tension and how to use them, as well as ways to create, sustain, and build tension
  • Why tension belongs on every page and in every line regardless of your genre, and how to create and maintain it throughout the story
  • A definition of “microtension”
  • Why beginnings and endings are the most crucial places for both suspense and tension, and how to use them effectively to draw readers in and keep them turning pages

Who should take this class

  • Fiction writers in all genres, as well as memoirists
  • Beginning to intermediate novelists
  • Writers who struggle with how to hook readers and keep them hooked
  • Authors who want to create high stakes and strong momentum in their stories
  • Authors who have received positive feedback on stories but are told that “it didn’t grab the reader enough” or “something is missing”

This class isn’t suited for

  • Poets and essayists
  • Writers of informational nonfiction or nonfiction without characters and scenes

What’s included in all of Jane’s classes

How do I attend the live class?

This class uses Zoom webinar technology (see system requirements). You will join through your Internet-connected computer or mobile device.

When you register, you will receive an email from Zoom on how to join the class. If you don’t receive it within 1 hour of registering, please contact us.

  • When: Wednesday, August 24, 2022
  • Time: 1:00–2:30 p.m. Eastern / 10:00 a.m. Pacific
  • Fee: $25

The webinar is broadcasted via the internet with live audio delivered through your computer or mobile device speakers. The visual presentation is displayed directly from the presenter’s computer to your computer screen. The Q&A is managed through a chat-style submission system with questions read and answered by the presenter for the entire class to hear.

Closed captions are provided during the live class. We use Zoom’s automated closed caption service (powered by Otter), which is about 80%+ accurate. We also use Otter AI to generate an unedited transcript, provided with the recording.

About the instructor

Tiffany Yates Martin has spent nearly thirty years as an editor in the publishing industry, working with major publishers and New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling, award-winning authors as well as indie and newer writers, and is the author of the Amazon bestseller Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing. She’s led workshops and seminars for conferences and writers’ groups across the country and is a frequent contributor to writers’ sites and publications. Under the pen name Phoebe Fox, she’s the author of six novels, including her most recent release, The Way We Weren’t (Berkley/PRH).

Tiffany’s presentations are very well planned, organized and beautifully delivered. Her slides touch on just the right number of key points, which she explains in depth. The excerpts illustrating her points are extremely helpful. I’ve learned so much in each presentation.

Nancy A.

This was so valuable. There is so much in this presentation. I can’t wait to watch it again and again—and again!! Thank you so much for offering this.

Barbara G.

I am always amazed at what great value you offer. I am a senior wanting to write and have no other way to get this high-quality information. Thank you!

Caridad W.

All students receive the following

  • Access to the live class. After roughly 75 minutes, Tiffany will take questions during class using in-class chat/text. The class will end after roughly 90 minutes.
  • A recording of the class—audio and video. This is especially helpful if you have a conflict with the class time or something comes up and you can’t make the session. Each registration comes with access to the archived version of the program and the materials for 30 days. You do not have to attend the live event to access the recordings. You will receive an email from Zoom with information on how to access the recording.
  • Presentation slides. All participants receive a copy of the slide presentation in PDF form.
  • Rough transcript. We use Otter to create an automated transcript of the entire webinar, which we’ll share with you in addition to the audio and video recording.

Event Attendance & Anti-Harassment Policy

We strive to provide an environment where all present—whether attendee, presenter, or staff—can feel supported. In order to ensure a welcoming event, here is what we expect from all who participate.

  • That the presenter and the presenter’s work be treated with respect by attendees and that all attendees treat each other with respect and a generosity of spirit.
  • That attendees will refrain from harassment of any sort including (but not limited to) comments or questions of a racist, homophobic, sexist/sexual, or threatening nature. This includes actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone’s ability to participate. Offenders will be disconnected from the live event.