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Writing A Great Script Fast In A Nutshell

Step 18: Adding Suspense ................ . ....................... .Next Step 19

Step 18: Creating Suspense

How many suspense and ticking clock ideas can you add to your film idea?

Write down any suspense ideas with plot point numbers on the brainstorming list below:

Suspense Brainstorming Ideas
• Show antagonist in hot pursuit of protagonist without protagonist being aware of the danger then cut back and forth between them in the story


• Place protagonist in situations where they are clearly going to lose by overwhelming odds such as being outnumbered or out gunned. Then have them succeed in surprising way after failing several times to get out of situation by doing something surprising or using a hidden thing.


• Show antagonist doing something really scary or heartless to someone else first to let us know how deadly, evil, dangerous or powerful they are in comparison to the protagonist then show them going after or towards protagonist.


• Add a ticking clock time pressure to the main plot goal and a little ticking clock to each scene if possible – bomb about to go off, meeting, deadline, race, running out of something important.



• Create tension by constructing characters who are opposites forced to be together then show them disagreeing and having strained relationships.


• Establish something as important to one character then have another character destroy important thing by mistake or on purpose • Show antagonist planning to kill loved ones, hanging out around family pretending to be someone else as a warning or getting ready to kill something dear to protagonist



• Show character trying to hide a secret that keeps being about to be revealed



• Clearly establish what character will lose if they get caught doing something they are not suppose to be doing (like having an affair (lose rich spouse), murdering someone (lose everything and go to jail) who is blackmailing them or stealing/gambling to cover debts (financial ruin/ shame/ loss of family) then show them almost getting caught over and over again.



• Show main character being squeezed emotionally to come up with money or results forcing character to do things they would not normally do.


• Show character who seems good at first suddenly do something horrific with little emotion or thought - like killing someone casually - audience realizes they do this all the time - very chilling.



• Show smart police or detectives closing in on solving character’s crimes.


• Show protagonist on journey to deliver something or find something with antagonist in hot pursuit, after same thing or opposite goal.


• Use universal relationship conflicts between people - new rich mother in law does not like son’s poor fiancée and tries to break up their relationship.


• Show protagonist trapped in evil or dangerous place that seemed normal at first but changes suddenly.


• Show secret antagonistic character going from nice/ friendly/ flirtatious, to creepy and threatening.



• Establish very clear high stakes outcomes for both protagonist and antagonist plot goals (loved one lives if protagonist helps antagonist / hotel where protagonist works is blown up with VIP inside by antagonist).



• Show cutaway shots of potential victims walking into trap or dangerous place that is about to blow up because of other plan in the works.



• Show protagonist trying to outsmart antagonist and getting caught (first show them almost getting caught a few times) - Sets off silent alarm, uses secret phone to call for help, slips a message to someone, digging an escape tunnel, hiding a potential weapon).



• Use an escalation of violence with antagonist - first nice then hits protagonist hard then threatens with a knife.

Create 1-3 suspense ideas for each plot point in your story. Add a ticking clock time pressure to the main plot goal and some plot points if possible.

Ticking clock time pressure for main plot goal:

1) Hook:

2) Setup:

3) Inciting incident:

4) Journey Into Unknown:

5) Investigation:

6) Twist:

7) Final Confrontation:

8) Climax:

9) Resolution:



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