Ah, suspense. The lovely buildup of tension that makes us claw at our palms and hold our collective breath in anticipation. I love suspense, but why is it often so hard to do?
Dan Wells, genius author, made a statement about suspense that I loved (and that I may have shared previously, but I'm the blogger here, so deal with it!). He said that suspense isn't about a bomb exploding under a kitchen table, suspense is knowing the bomb is there, seeing the family sitting down to eat dinner, looking at the lovely turtle cheesecake right in the center of the table...okay, so he didn't say the bit about the cheesecake, but the sentiment is the same. Suspense isn't about the inciting action, but rather the lack of action.
A movie that did this well, in my opinion, is Inception. There was a lot of palm clawing and breath holding, but I'll cite one instance in particular. Spoilers ahead...for those who haven't seen the movie:
The character Saito gets shot in the first level dream, and we know as they travel deeper and deeper, that his condition is worsening. We get flashes of Saito, reminders that his situation is dire. Was the gunshot itself suspenseful? No. Was waiting for Saito to slowly bleed to death as they went further and further into the dreams suspenseful? Absolutely!
I love a story with great suspense. What are movies/books/TV shows that you think have done this well? How about ones that post a big FAIL in the suspense category?