Using Dramatic Irony to Build Tension in a Novel
PS in suspense we aren’t always ahead of *all* the characters, but it certainly is fun to see something menacing unfolding while a naive character stands by, unwitting, as in the examples shown in this post.
I can’t wait to read Jen’s books, and I loved thinking about dramatic irony (and whether I underuse it) after reading this post.
It occurs to me that one reason I usually prefer suspense as a genre, over traditional mystery, is that in the former, readers are often ahead of characters (dramatic irony!=lots of tension!) whereas in the latter, characters are often ahead of readers and the readers are supposed to catch up (more intellectually stimulating, but perhaps less emotionally involving?). In some mysteries, an investigator character has it alllll figured out well in advance (hello there, Hercule Poirot), and that can be a bit dull. I wonder if Jen would have any thoughts on these genre distinctions? Admittedly, few great books fit into one genre box neatly.
Great post!! We watched that same clip of Alfred Hitchcock in film school during our lesson on tension. Dramatic irony, ticking clock/time limit, audience breather... Rinse and repeat :D
Only thing I find is missing from Hitchcock's example is that the characters should be doing something that matters to them, have future plans, or we should just know something about them that would make it super painful or completely break the story if these people were to explode. If their deaths don't have a terrible domino effect on the world around them, then the suspense doesn't affect us that much.
What the characters want/are planning to do should (almost) never be a mystery, just like you wrote that “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” is never true in suspense novels (or any novels, I think).
I love this - great example and explanation!