How Do Authors Create Suspense and Tension in Their Stories?

9 September 2016

In ‘The speckled band’ the suspects are the gypsies, the exotic animals and Dr Roylott, there are some obvious and some not, this means the story could turn down a range of directions. Having lots of suspects makes the reader think more about who the culprit could be, increasing tension and suspicion, Victorians would have wanted to read on because they liked to know the truth, since Charles Dawin’s ‘origin of species’ raised suspicion on how the world formed, this made the Victorians very supposititious . Another key factor a mystery story should have is clues and a clever twist.

The clues lead the reader deeper into finding out what the mystery of the story is, then the twist, maybe at the start or end of the story, turns the story around; making the mystery something never thought about. I also like danger and fear to be a part of a mystery story; this keeps the readers in suspense and will make them carry on reading to know what the final outcome of the scene is. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘the Speckled Band’ is an excellent example of an effective mystery story. ‘The Speckled Band’ is narrated by Dr Watson, Sherlock Holmes’s housemate; Watson reveals one of his many tales of adventure with Holmes.

How Do Authors Create Suspense and Tension in Their Stories? Essay Example

In this story a girl dies under mysterious circumstances in her bedroom at a gothic mansion where she lived with her sister, Helena Stoner and her aggressive step father Dr Roylott who owned a number of exotic animals and liked to befriend gypsies. The use of exotic animals would have appealed to the Victorians because they were a very new, and these animals would have only ever been heard of. The fact that Roylott is friends with gypsies would have been very odd for the Victorians, because it was a drastic mix of class, an wner of a manor would have never even though about talking to gypsies because they were frowned upon. The girl had recently become engaged to be married shortly before her death. Because she was in line to be married, it meant that the girl would inherit a large sum of money her mother left to her and her sister before she died. The girl’s last words were “The Speckled Band! ” the only clue miss stoner has on finding out what caused her sisters awful death. Now, her sister Helena has become engaged and Dr Roylott is ordering her to start sleeping in her sister’s bedroom, she fears the same tragedy awaits her too.

Next Miss stoner seeks the help of Sherlock Holmes and his side kick Dr Watson, after agreeing to help the girl in need, Sherlock travels from Baker street in London, to the gloomy gothic manor house to investigates the house. This change of scenery triggers a change in the mood of the story, from the safe, bustling streets of London, to the empty, dark and almost threatening manor house in Stoke Moran. This change would have increased the tension in the story and intrigued the reader to read on. He finds a useless bell chord and a ventilator leading from Dr Roylotts room to her sister’s old room.

These to clues are very hard to connect, so Sherlock orders Miss Stoner to sleep in her own room while Sherlock and Watson spend the night in her sister’s room. That night Sherlock and Watson wait, until a number of events happen all at once, Sherlock starts hitting at something violently, then stops and announces to Watson that everything is over, they both venture out of the room and onto the landing, to enter Dr Roylotts room. They find him dead, with a snake coiled around him, the cause of her Helena’s sister’s death.

Roylott had trained the snake to travel through the ventilator and down the bell chord, onto the bed to kill the person sleeping inside it. The stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were printed in papers every month; it was much like a soap opera to people nowadays. These papers were new, perfect for people to discuss and socialize with, and also very cheap and this meant they could be read by the majority of classes. The idea of solving mysteries was very important to the Victorians because societies were full of changing ideas.

More scientific ideas were made when Charles Darwin ‘Origin of species’ was published in 1859, ‘the speckled band’ and similar books were written to help bring back some certainty into the changing world. The setting is very important in mystery stories because it establishes where the mystery will take place. In ‘the speckled band’ the setting is a gothic manor, this fits within the time period and can be imagined as gloomy and mysterious, perfect for the story line. The main character in the story is Sherlock Holmes; he is the hero of the book, a very important factor in a mystery book.

The Victorians would have loved this character because he was not a part of the police force; he was a character that could be relied on, when the police force was so corrupt. Holmes’s life was his job, as the reader gets further into the story; they see that Holmes works for personal satisfaction, ’my profession is its own reward’. Another different thing about this character at the time is that Holmes loves his job whereas the police force did not. Sherlock is calm, controlled and observant, he also is polite and knows very well how to speak to women, and these factors make him a likable character.

When Holmes says sentences such as ‘good morning madam’ and ‘very sorry to wake you up, Watson’ this suggests he is suave and charming. Throughout the book Holmes demonstrates his very individual and clever way of thinking, ‘Sherlock Holmes had been leaning back in his chair with his eyes closed and head sunk in a cushion’, this shows he is deep in thought and is interested in the case. Dr Watson is Holmes’s sidekick, he ventures out on every case Sherlock comes across, assisting him if he needs him to. Watson is almost devoted to Holmes in his cases and works ‘my dear fellow I would not miss it for anything’.

Watson is known as being the less smart out of him and Holmes. Watson is the narrator of the story, it is important that he knows all the key information of the story because if he didn’t the reader wouldn’t know what was happening in the story. Watson is also a very important character because he asks Holmes questions that need explaining so the audience know what is going on, acting amazed as the reader should be when they read the story to. The character of Helena Stoner is the next victim in need if help, also known as a damsel in distress, this also suggests the low position women had in society at the time.

Stoner gives the background information of the crime in hand, this helps the reader and hero, put the clues together and come up with the people with suspected motives. Another key character is the villain, Dr Roylott. From the start of the story the reader can tell straight away that the character of Roylott is angry and aggressive ‘you are Holmes the meddler! ’ Villains were very important in mystery stories, especially in Victorian times because Victorians loved crime and punishment. There is very good language used in this story, it is very effective on the story line and the reader.

Throughout the story there is a mention of gypsies, ‘wretched gypsies’, the gypsies are mainly talked about in a bad way, this was vey stereotypical of the Victorians to blame a lower class for bad happenings. I think it is very effective when the writer repeats a certain part of speech, ‘it seems to be a most dark and sinister business’-‘dark enough and sinister enough’, this increases tension because even Holmes himself is struggling to come up with a conclusion. A very effective part of writing is when the most action takes part in the story.

A series of rushed and ‘scary’ acts happen just after this Sherlock announces that ‘it means it’s all over. ’ This leaves the reader partly confused and in need to read over that part of the story again, it also makes the reader want to read on so they can find out what really happened. This short quote almost reassures the reader, and makes the scene balanced, so the story is steady again, equilibrium. A good mystery story needs to be effective, dramatic and surprising. The story of The Red Room begins with an unnamed confident, determined narrator visiting Lorraine castle.

There he talks to three elderly people, two men and one woman, none of which are named. The narrator is visiting the castle to spend a night in the dreaded ‘red room of Lorraine castle’ after hearing all the myths about ghosts haunting it because a woman once died in there years ago. Each of the elderly express their fears of their being terrible ghosts in the room and not to take his over night stay to lightly, but the narrator does not believe them and asks to be taken to the room. After finding his way through the series of long passage ways and stairs of the castle, he enters the red room.

The room is secluded away from the heart of the house and is full of dated furniture. As the narrator settles himself inside the room, the candles lit around it start to extinguish themselves. At first the narrator suggests it’s a draft but before long, fear overtakes him, and he ends up running into the locked door and knocking himself out. He awakes with the three elderly people next to him, and when they ask him what is inside the room, he says ‘…there is no ghost in their at all; but worst, far worst-‘.

At the end of the story the narrator is no longer confident and determined, but scared and defeated. H. G Wells had many reasons to write this story. The clear conclusive ending could suggest that he wanted to remind the Victorians that there was still some mystery left in the world. Wells would have wanted to put this message across because there were vast amounts of scientific progress during Victorian times. The famous book ‘Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species’ had just been published suggesting that everything has an explanation, so there was a lot of debate about how the world had been formed.

The Red Room leaves questions unanswered, this is very effective because the reader has to solve the mystery themselves, and ‘Fear itself is in that room. Black fear’ is there anything causing that fear? Even know the story is written in Victorian times, it does not seem to reflect the Victorian context, ‘There are two big mirrors in the room, each with pairs sconces, bearing candles…chintz covered arm chairs’. These references to old fashioned furniture makes the story seem old fashioned than it really is.

The reader might be confused about the exact time period the story is set in, this could also suggest that fear is timeless. The references to old furniture also suggest that the Red room has been undisturbed for many years, suggesting there is a reason why no one dares enter. The plot of this story is very important because it plays a key part in making it effective. The plot is like a rollercoaster, it starts of slow and then builds up to a dramatic ending, ‘I was now frantic with horror’ and ‘the candle fell from my hand’. The dramatic climax happens fast, in some cases the reader might have to read this part again.

Wells sets his story at Lorraine castle, ‘The great room of Lorraine castle’. Setting the story here gives the story a gothic feel. The castle would be ancient and spooky adding to effect and fear. This was good because the Victorians liked gothic and horror genres. Suspense and horror are also key elements of a mystery story. The positioning of the Red room inside the castle is a crucial part for the reader’s enjoyment, ‘you go along the passage…through that is a spiral staircase…long corridor’. This quotation shows how far away the Red room is away from the main room.

The Red room is secluded and lonely, away from the safety of the kitchen, the heart of the home. The three elderly people add to the suspense and tension in the story, ‘the man with the withered arm’, ‘the old woman’ and ‘the man with the shade’. All three of these elderly people are unnamed and are not speaking of what will happen once the narrator is in the Red room; this suggests that something will happen later on in the story, foreshadowing the ending of the story. H. G Wells deliberately leaves the characters unnamed. The protagonist is unnamed and narrates the story from first person perspective.

When a mystery story is written in first person, the reader knows exactly what the character is thinking and feeling throughout the story. This is a good way of keeping the reader interested and involved with the story. Another effective part of the story is how much the protagonists state of mind changes, ‘I can assure you that it will take a very tangible ghost to scare me’ to ‘there are no ghosts in there at all; but worst, far worst. ’ As you can see the character is confident and determined that there is no ghost but quickly his mood and thoughts change to scared and defeated after being inside the room.

There is a lot of good language used in this story, ‘germinating darkness’, ‘silence and solitude’ and ‘supernatural’. These quotations are very interesting because it could suggest that darkness overtakes good. Theses quotations are very good example of imagery used in the story, creating pictures in the readers mind, creating even more tension and effect. This story uses dramatic irony. ‘I can assure you that it will take a very tangible ghost to frighten me’ and ‘eight and twenty years I have lived and never a ghost have I seen as yet’.

These quotes foreshadow what will later happen later on in the story. It is easy to see that mystery stories are still as popular to day as they were in Victorian times. Mystery genres are confined in books, games, TV dramas and films. The two stories have many similarities and differences. The two stories begin with a confident and bold protagonist; although each story does not have the same ending the beginnings are very similar. Both stories are written in the same genre and at the same time period, the Victorian times.

The two mystery stories are set in gothic buildings, the speckled band features an ancient manor house and the red room uses a lonely castle. Using these gothic settings adds to the tense and mysterious scenes of the story. The stories also start with some background information, a story within a story. This information in both stories is of a woman who has died, in other words a damsel in distress. Using a damsel in each of these stories lets the reader know a lot about the status of women at the time. Both stories also feature one particular room, where a lot of dramatic events take place.

Both rooms from each story are very enclosed and trapped, suggesting even before the events take place, that something will happen later on. As well as similarities there are also many differences. The speckled band gives a lot of detail gives a lot of detail about who the characters are and background information about them, in the speckled band lots of information is given about the girl Helen Stoner. When the author writes a story within a story, it can help the reader to feel empathy towards the character, so the reader will go on to care about that particular character throughout the story.

One obvious difference is that only one story contains a real and obvious villain. The speckled band’s suspected villain is Dr Roylott from the very star, whereas no one knows who or what is the villain in the red room. The red room has no references to modern culture, this makes it difficult to know when the story was set, whereas the speckled band includes lots of references to modern culture such as trains, the Victorians would have loved this because they loved all things modern. The two protagonists have very different states if mind throughout the story.

In the speckled band, Sherlock Holmes has a very logical mind and thinks there is an explanation for everything. But the red room’s narrator is convinced about one thing at first, but by the end of the story, he does not know what to believe. One last point is that each story has a very different ending. In the red room there is an unsatisfactory ending, because there is no explanation, but the speckled band there is a clear conclusive ending. Both these endings would have influenced and made the Victorians relate the stories ending with the newly published book Charles Darwin’s origin of species.

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