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Starting Stories with Suspense

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Starting Stories with Suspense

Starting Stories with Suspense
Thoughtful Learning

Exciting stories often start in the middle of the action, with a main character immediately facing a potential conflict or problem. Conflict creates suspense or uncertainty, which in turn draws readers into the story. For instance, consider the first line of the Hunger Games trilogy:

  • When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.

This short line foreshadows the struggle to come. The other side of the bed is cold and empty, suggesting something is not right. The character expected someone else to be there, and the reader is encouraged to read on to find out who and why.

When you write your own stories, think about how you can create suspense from the opening few lines and then maintain that suspense as the story continues.

Your Turn Read the following story starters. Choose your favorite and write what happens next. Maintain the suspense as long as you can. If none of the starters appeals to you, create your own suspenseful beginning and keep the story going.

  • The sound coming from the sewer was unlike anything Lilly had ever heard. Whatever it was, it was getting louder and moving closer. . . .
  • When Jimmy stepped outside on that bright sunny morning, the ground sank beneath him. He reached up, grasping for something—anything—when finally . . .
  • What Chelsea would do that day was the bravest thing of all.
  • Dequan flung his controller at the game screen. Instead of hearing a sharp crack, he heard a digital splash. Baffled, Dequan looked closer for damage and realized the black controller, now shrunken and animated, rested in the hands of a character on screen. “Want to play a game?” the character asked, moving the joystick forward. Dequan jolted toward the screen. . . .
  • Four suited figures in dark shades searched menacingly for the key to the safe, not knowing the key lay hidden in my pocket.
  • The egg at my feet shook and cracked open. A scaly wing unfolded from it, and then another. Before long,I was staring into the groggy eyes of a baby dragon.
  • Have you ever wished you could go back in time and do something over again? Today, I got that chance.
  • No one could have guess what would happen when the students took over the school. . . .

Teacher Support:

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Answer Key:

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Standards Correlations:

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