Suspense by  L. Ron Hubbard

     This is Jim’s cue, of course, to knock the stuffing out of Black Bart, but that doesn’t make good reading nor very much wordage, for thirty words are enough in which to recount any battle as such, up to and including wars.

     So we add suspense. For some reason Jim can’t leap into the fray right at that moment. Suppose we add that he has these pearls right there and he’s afraid Ringo, Black Bart’s henchman, will up and swipe them when Jim’s back is turned. So first Jim has to stow the pearls.

     This gets Bart halfway across the deck toward that straining hawser which he must cut to wreck the schooner and ruin the hero.

[ Picture]

     Now, you say, we dive into it. Nix. We’ve got a spot here for some swell suspense. Is Black Bart going to cut that hawser? Is Jim going to get there?

      Jim starts. Ringo hasn’t been on his way to steal the pearls but to knife Jim, so Jim tangles with Ringo, and Black Bart races toward the hawser some more.

     Jim’s fight with Ringo is short. About like this:

     Ringo charged, eyes rolling, black face set. Jim glanced toward Bart. He could not turn his back on this charging demon. Yet he had to get that axe.

     Jim whirled to meet Ringo. His boot came up and the knife sailed over the rail and into the sea. Ringo reached out with his mighty hands. Jim stepped through and nailed a right on Ringo’s button. Skidding, Ringo went down.

      Jim sprinted forward toward Bart. The blackbearded Colossus spun about to meet the rush, axe upraised.

      Now, if you want to, you can dust off this scrap. But don’t give it slug by slug. Hand it out, thus:

     The axe bit down into the planking. Jim tried to recover from his dodge. Bart was upon him, slippery in Jim’s grasp. In vain Jim tried to land a solid blow, but Bart was holding him hard.

     “Ringo!” roared Bart. “Cut that hawser!”

      Ringo, dazed by Jim’s blow, struggled up. Held tight in Bart’s grasp, Jim saw Ringo lurch forward and yank the axe out of the planking.

      “That hawser!” thundered Bart. “I can’t hold this fool forever!”

      Now, if you wanted that hawser cut in the first place (which you did, because that means more trouble and the suspense of wondering how the schooner will get out of it) cut that hawser right now before the reader suspects that this writing business is just about as mechanical as fixing a Ford.

     Action suspense is easy to handle, but you have to know when to quit and you have to evaluate your drama and ladle it out accordingly.

     Even in what the writers call the psychological story you have to rely upon suspense just as mechanical as this.

     Give your reader a chance to wonder for a while about the final outcome.

Suspense continued...


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