Create Suspense in Your Play

Close up of people performing at aida opera looking at giant spa prop.

Main Article

The ability to keep your audience on the edge on the edge of their seats can turn your play into a memorable event that people will remember and recommend to their friends. There are many factors that go into creating suspense, from the initial screen writing to the actors performing the role and the stage decorations. Here’s how to create suspense in your play and put on a show to remember.

Allow your audience to relate

Ensure you have sympathetic characters that the audience can relate to. Offering characters a chance of redemption is a good way to do this, as the audience will support them and see themselves in the character.

Provide some sort of opposition or conflict

This may drive your plot, especially when the opposition or conflict stands in the way of your characters achieving their goal. The feeling of doom when it seems like your character may lose can be mirrored in stage props and sound effects to really set a tense feeling in your audience’s stomachs.

Increase the tension further

At this point, you may want to increase the tension even more. A classic way to do this is to let your audience know something your protagonist doesn’t. You can do this in some great ways, using soliloquies, split stages and stage effects. As the character gets into turmoil or lacks essential knowledge, the audience will be urging them to find out.

Create consequences

From increasing tension, make it clear to your audience that there will be terrible consequences if your character doesn’t succeed. As the audience comes to support your character more and more, they will become tenser when the character isn’t finding the answer to the conflict of the play.

Use time as another conflict

By setting a time limit for your character to work against, you will increase suspense. You can do this in a number of ways, such as mentioning it in dialogue, or using set props with a time motif. You will also find that by having a fixed time, your plot will move at a good pace and avoid going nowhere.

Maintain doubt

The moment your audience know the conclusion of your play, all suspense will go and your hard work will be for nothing. You will frustrate and annoy your audience if you fill your plot with unnecessary twists and turns, but by leaving room for doubt, you will draw in your audience and keep them guessing.

Your script, along with the way you dress your stage and utilise stage props can all factor into building suspense in your play. When done correctly, you will be able to build a compelling story with characters that the audience will love and want to see succeed.