How To Know You Should Write Suspense

by Ronie Kendig

Years ago (we won’t mention how many decades I’m referring to) when I first got serious about writing, I explored many different genres. One of my favorites back then was historicals. But I quickly shifted into romantic suspense/military suspense and speculative fiction with suspense. In an interview recently, I was asked how I started writing suspense. Admittedly, that simply made me shrug. I’ve always been writing suspense in some form or fashion. But I wondered how other authors would answer that. 

So, I asked some of my suspense-writing friends how they knew they should write suspense. Here are their responses: 

When you’re walking through a hotel at a theme park thinking, “A terrorist could hide out here for years…” 

I knew I needed to write suspense because I’d been doing it in my head since I was about 15. Twenty years later, I decided it was stupid to waste all these exciting stories on an audience of one (me) and started writing them down! 

So . . . I take a road trip to ‘get away from writing’ and fall into a Stephen King like scenario that is screaming ‘write me!’ I am writing it now.

I have no idea how to know if you should write suspense. It’s just what sticks in your brain. Funny story. Diann Hunt was writing RV There Yet and was going to have a moose poke its head in the RV. I said, “Di, moose are dangerous! They kill a lot of people every year.” She was thinking of Bullwinkle, and I was thinking of a person trampled to a bloody pulp, probably egged on by a killer. 

You look at your hot tub cover folded halfway open and think how you could hide a body in the water under the remaining half. 


Nothing excites you more than learning the man standing next to you at your kid’s soccer game is an experienced homicide profiler.
You hear of a poisonous plant and wonder who you could kill with it.
You guess the twists in all suspense books and movies.
You greet your young daughter’s new boyfriend (whom you immediately know is a weasel) by saying, “I’m her mother—and I kill people for a living.”

I’ve always been partial to suspense, but I knew I’d found my calling when I woke up the middle of the night and saw a man standing in my bedroom…or rather the silhouette of a man. I froze, immediately awake, wondering if I could be quick enough to reach my gun before he pounced on me. We were at a stalemate for what seemed like an eternity before I dared move. I flipped on the lamp and realized what I’d thought was a man was actually the dark outline of several pairs of shoes hanging on my over-the-door shoe hanger against my white closet door. I laughed at myself, but it took a long time to be able to go back to sleep. 

If you’re a criminal at heart but don’t have the guts to actually do the deed. Or, you’r quite the hero in your own imagination. You know, those who can’t do. . . uh, write. 

You quickly survey the best escape plan in case someone with deadly intent shows up—EVERYWHERE YOU GO! (TRUE for me!)
When you can’t stop reading it. 
Let me tell you, I can keep people in suspenders for days! OH! You mean suspense! Well, ever since I was a child, I loved telling stories, beginning with writing in my dream journal. I took classes and refined my craft. In 1984, I had a sci-fi dream that I wrote out and decided to make into a full story. Thus, the “Da Guv” was created and began the “Tales of the Interverse Faire” series. 

Ronie Kendig 

How do I know? Because I fall asleep writing romance. Seriously. And no matter where I went, I worked out tactical plans for safe ingress/egress, and what could go wrong. I say I don’t like theme parks, but it’s really the crowds and the innumerable scenarios that hit me while trapped in hour-long queues. 

When you have a brain that wonders what would have happened if Anne Shirley arrived in Avonlea and found a dead body en route to Green Gables. (Thereafter she launches Carrots Investigations and ropes in Gilbert Blythe as her Watson)
When a writer realizes the world is a dangerous place, and you want to show readers there is hope.
Everywhere you look you think about everything that could go wrong. 
There’s a kidnapping or murder happening behind every bush. 
From the days of Nancy Drew I’ve loved reading suspense and mysteries, so it was natural I’d write them. It’s the only way I get to be part of frightening situations that would paralyze me in real life. 

When you take notes while watching every true crime drama on the Investigation Discovery network.
I realized I should write suspense when I took a hard look at my life. Thoughts that every white conversion van contained a kidnapped child…or a dead body. A good look at my bookshelf loaded with books on “how to poison” or “how to murder someone and get away with it” was also a clue. 
No choice, with my background. :0 
[Carrie has an extensive background in forensic art and instruction.]

Are you a suspense writer? Or do you have a quip regarding How to Know You Should Write Suspense? Share it with us in the comments! 

Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than a dozen novels. She grew up an Army brat and seeks to honor our military heroes through her stories. Now, she and her husband, an Army veteran, have an adventurous life in Northern Virginia with their children and a retired military working dog, VVolt N629. 

Her newest release, Conspiracy of Silence (12/6), is receiving rave reviews. 

Kendig keeps the tensions high and the pace lightning fast, with military action scenes worthy of Vince Flynn.–Publishers Weekly

“… fast-moving, roller-coaster thriller…”–Booklist

“… an explosive, action-packed global journey …. Kendig has pulled out all the stops in this highly entertaining read that has plot elements of a Tom Clancy or Dan Brown novel. … Kendig has out done herself.”–RT Book Reviews Top Pick