How to Teach Children To Add Suspense In Their Writing

Written by Dan

Last updated

As teachers, we aim to motivate and challenge our students to put their best foot forward in every subject they learn. We want them to become the most competent versions of themselves, and writing helps them do just that!

However, sometimes adding suspense to their report can be tricky for younger children. Teaching kids how to add tension to their writing can help capture readers’ imaginations and boost creativity.

In this blog post, we’ll explore ways teachers can teach children how to effectively introduce tension-building elements into their stories so that young learners have the skills moving forward needed for more effective emotive writing!

Related: For more, check out our article on How To Make Writing Fun  here.

The 5 Senses

Expand your character’s senses beyond visual cues to build a more immersive experience for readers. Include sounds, scents, textures and tastes that can bring tension, anticipation or warnings of approaching danger into the story.

For instance: The smell of freshly cut grass was replaced by acrid smoke as he rounded the corner – a warning sign that his journey was about to become much more dangerous than he had anticipated.


  • The footsteps grew increasingly louder, reverberating off the walls of the hallway.
  • Suddenly, all was still – not a single leaf rustled in the trees, and even the wind ceased whispering among them.
  • The only sound that remained was his laboured breath as it formed wispy clouds into shape before dispersing in thin air.
  • An eerie calm engulfed everything around him.


  • Her toes stumbled upon something round and hollow, which rolled off into the darkness.
  • As a surprise, he ducked as a chill wind blew past him; it felt like icy fingers had caressed his scalp.


  • Cupping her hands around her face, Trish sought to combat the noxious stench of graveyards and decomposition emanating from the darkness.
  • Much to her dismay, however, it seemed that nothing could block out its cloying aroma. In desperation, she reached into her purse for something—anything! —that would help.
  • Instantly a lovely smell assailed their senses as tendrils of fragrant smoke scattered about them like tiny wisps of hope in an otherwise dismal field.


  • The nasty beverage seared her throat as it trickled down, sending a wave of hot bitterness through her body. She could feel the drink burning in every vein.


Force The Character To Use Their Senses

Crafting a gripping story in KS2 is achievable by focusing on darkness and allowing your characters to rely solely on their other senses.

Adding details and descriptive language can invigorate the reader’s imagination by creating truly spine-shivering stories with vivid sounds, tactile sensations, and tempting smells.

Crafting a setting’s atmosphere demands more than simply stating it was ‘dark’. To give your readers an immersive experience, augment the scene with vivid detail:

She stiffened in the spooky darkness, listening to her surroundings as if every sound was a threat. Creaks and rustles from within the house put Kitty on edge while shadows danced around her like living shapes.

A chill of danger crept up her spine, and instinctively, she knew not to stir.

Build The Suspense Slowly

  • To amp up the suspense, carefully add ambience and atmosphere to your scene. Add menacing background noises, flashes of light, deep shadows, and hazardous terrains like uneven ground or muddy paths during a pursuit. By gradually building tension, you can make your setting truly frightening and action scenes electrifying!

For Example:

  • Her flashlight’s batteries were beginning to die, the beam weakening and faltering as it searched left then right. Rob tried to locate where the steps originated from, but with no avail; he quickened his pace to find shelter or safety–yet the terrain was rugged and uneven, causing him suddenly plummet downward onto solid ground.

The Weather

  • Nature’s fury can be harnessed to build suspense and dread: howling winds, menacing fog, wild storms, incessant rain – all of it shrouded in the shroud of dusk or cast into complete darkness. With these components at play, elements together evoke an atmosphere that is sure to terrify!

For example:

  • She looked at her watch for the umpteenth time as the sun’s rays slowly faded. Time seemed to be slipping away, and she felt perturbed by it.
  • All day, she had been distressed by the sensation of being watched. But as darkness descended, her fear intensified. She ought to have heard something by now – yet, only uncertainty and dread for what lurked in the shadows filled her heart.
  • The icy, biting wind brushed against the back of her neck and ears like a thousand cold fingers. At once, everything seemed to have been sucked of all luminosity as the entire world plunged into unnerving darkness.
  • The wind grew increasingly powerful, blowing so hard that it seemed to scream through the air and strike against the house walls with a relentless force.

To truly bring the story alive, adding vivid detail and description will give readers a richer understanding of what is happening.

Give readers Hint

  • Gripping the reader with suspense, there are plenty of clues to indicate a looming threat. What lies in wait beyond that door? Are they being watched or followed?
  • Will their hiding place be discovered as footsteps and voices become louder and closer? Entering this perilous realm is sure to create an adrenaline-filled atmosphere!

Use Punctuation to Build Suspense

I have something important to tell you: Something that will change your life forever… It’s a secret, and it can only be revealed if I pause for dramatic effect–but here goes: You are worthy of true greatness.

For example:

  • He was climbing the ladder when he suddenly became motionless. She heard a clink of metal and footsteps shuffling around her, and then complete silence filled the air.
  • A dark silhouette lingered above her as she fell to her knees in fear. She realized who it was in seconds – silhouetted by dim light was…

Use Time As A Suspense Builder

  • Every second felt like an eternity as he searched for a way to escape the clutches of imminent danger.
  • The clock was ticking rapidly, and his time seemed to run out with every passing moment.
  • His heart raced as the seconds slowly dragged on, all while knowing that any pause could lead him further down into a deep, dark abyss from which there would be no return.
  • A sense of helplessness fell upon him in those agonizing moments until it was too late; he had always been caught in its trap.

Use Different Sentence Types and Lengths

To add suspense and ratchet up the tension in your KS2 writing, use a variety of word lengths, sentence structures, and paragraphs. Instead of longer phrases like “immediately,” opt for shorter words like “at once.”

Additionally, consider stringing together multiple short sentences — e.g., She ducked. He lunged — or even one-word expressions (e.g., Oh no! Coming closer). Too close.) to keep readers on the edge of their seats!

Punchy Sentences

Partial sentences can be highly effective when creating a sense of urgency and haste. For instance: He had to get the others – he HAD TO reach the attic! Staggering and stumbling, he fought his way forward with all the strength left in him; five more steps.

To heighten intensity further, use single-line paragraphs here and there while utilizing plenty of action verbs within your sentences. This will keep readers enthralled as they’re swept into an exciting whirlwind of activity!

Creating suspenseful moments in KS2 writing is easy. With the right words and descriptions, you can quickly bring your story to life and keep readers on the edge of their seats!

Utilize a variety of sentence lengths and types, add vivid detail, and give subtle clues and hints to suggest looming danger — all these elements combined will make for an unforgettable reading experience.

So, don’t be afraid to take your writing out of its comfort zone; a bit of suspense never hurts anyone! Good luck!

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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