“I was really following my own advice” – A Quote by Orson Scott Card from the Afterword of “The Lost Gate”

In the Afterword of The Lost Gate, Orson Scott Card goes into quite a bit of detail as to how the story came about, including how he finally decided on where to start the story of Danny, the young protagonist.  He’d initially thought to start with Danny a bit younger and have the reader learn about Danny’s family, their history, and magic at the same time as Danny.  He ultimately decided against it.

The following excerpt is from the Afterword:

“I was really following my own advice–I tell students in my writing classes that suspense comes, not from knowing almost nothing, but from knowing almost everything and caring very much about the small part still unknown.”

This does make complete sense to me.  When I watch movies or read books and I’m plunked down in the middle of a strange world or a dark place, suspense isn’t created just by things being unknown.  I’m curious to see how things are in the world, how they are similar or different to this world, or what’s hiding/hidden in the dark, but suspense requires more information.  It needs some sort of action or sense of impending action that will generate conflict.  The action doesn’t even need to take place, internal conflict can be generated by the character as a reaction to the suspense…but, if the character or reader knows nothing, there can be no suspense.  They don’t know anything is about to happen.  There’s nothing to be scared of, unless a fear of the dark/unknown is established, which if not done beforehand, can seem very coincidental and overly convenient for the author.


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