From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- For the genre, see Thriller (genre).
Suspense or tension is the feeling of uncertainty and interest about the outcome of certain actions, most often referring to an audience's perceptions in a dramatic work. However, suspense is not exclusive to literature.
According to Aristotle's Poetics, suspense is an important building block of drama. In very broad terms, it consists of having some real danger looming and a ray of hope. The two common outcomes can be
- the danger hits, whereby the audience will feel sorrowful
- the hope comes true, whereby the audience will first feel joy, then satisfaction.
If there is no hope, the audience will feel despair.
Suspense in Dramatic Works
Alfred Hitchcock is considered to be one of the premier directors of suspense film.
Robert Ludlum has written many books in the international suspense genre. In The Bourne Identity series, the main character has amnesia. He does not remember who he is, what he does, or how he got there -- these techniques are used to increase suspense and curiosity in the reader.