Question: I received a return on my literary novel from a major publishing house, Arline. On the rejection letter someone had scrawled, "needs more suspense." I don't write mystery stories. I write mainstream fiction! What do I need with suspense????
Answer: Well there's suspense, the genre, as in thrillers and mysteries. And there's "suspense" the writing element, that is -- or should be -- indigenous to all fiction. At least that's what I suppose they were referring to. And remember, this is a guess....
To a fiction writer suspense is keeping readers guessing what will happen next. The term suspense, denotes how involved the reader is in your plot. If he or she already knows what is going to happen, there isn't any suspense (critics call it "predictable"), and little reason to continue reading. Hooks help increase suspense. To avoid trite plots, make a list of 10 things that might happen next and pick the least likely. Or brainstorm with friends to come up with suggestions for unusual and exciting twists. Remember, keep the readers guessing.
Now Amy, of course, I haven't read your book, so I can't say for sure what the "scrawler" meant, but whoever it was took the trouble to try to tell you something. They would not have done that if they hadn't seen promise in your work.