• Rachael Bell-Irving

Capturing Suspense

Updated: Mar 12

During a recent workshop, we were given the following writing exercise:


In the first or third person limited, write a scene where your character hears the sound of someone trying to break into the house. Your character is home alone (although it might not be their house), and vulnerable in some way; in the bath, or in bed, or trapped in a windowless room. The scene should begin with the first hint of danger and should end the moment before your character actually sees the intruder. Your goal here is to imagine in a convincing way your character's emotions and perceptions and to create as much suspense as possible.


I was actually kind of happy with what I wrote, though I didn't quite follow the instructions correctly. Plus we only had a few minutes to write, so it's not perfect. I took a slightly different approach to the idea of an intruder and tried to imagine a more unique scenario. Hint: I was inspired by the concept from Monsters Inc.


Here is what I came up with...

Kylie listened intently to the sound of her breathing. Slow inhale, carefully controlled exhale. Her mother told her deep breathing would calm her down, but so far it wasn't working. She pulled the covers up to her nose and tucked the end of the comforter beneath her heels. Wrapped in the fabric cacoon, Kylie tried not to think about how empty the house was.


Her parents would be home soon. She should have nothing to worry about, she reminded herself. She was perfectly old enough to be home alone and put herself to bed. But every time she peaked out of her tightly shut eyelids she thought she saw the darkness shifting across the walls.


A light rustling scratching Kylie's ears. She held her breath, eyes flashing open as she listened. Where had the sound come from?


The rustling crawled through the air again.


She stared unblinkingly at her bedroom door. the sound stopped, replaced by the sound of Kylie's blood pounding in her ears. It could have been nothing.


Then she heard a creak.


Kylie sat up with a jerk, clutching her sheets close to her chest. If her parents had come home, she should see the living room light seeping in beneath her door. But the world beyond her bedroom was still black.


The creaking sound started again. It was loud and sharp this time, and much, much closer. Tears welled up in her eyes, and Kylie looked towards her closet.



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