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Elements of Suspense

The Elements of Suspense

Storyteller OS users: Clip this video into your Knowledge Base and categorize it under Storytelling Essentials

In this video from Lessons from the Screenplay, Michael takes a close look at the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds and explores the elements that create suspense. By examining conflict, dissonance, and instability, lack of control, uncertainty, and payoff, Michael shows how Quentin Tarantino's dialogue and character design create one of the most tension-filled scenes in recent memory. Through this analysis, we gain a deeper understanding of the anatomy of suspense and how it can be harnessed to create an unforgettable cinematic experience.

Storytelling Essentials


  • Conflict, dissonance, and instability are key components of tension experiences, and create a yearning for more stable or consonant states.
  • Lack of control can lead to an experience of tension, especially in storytelling mediums where the audience has no say in what happens.
  • Emotional investment in anticipated events is proportional to the intensity of suspense.
  • Tarantino uses dialogue to increase emotional significance of anticipated events.
  • Uncertainty increases tension and suspense.
  • Suspense is maximized when the "rubber band" is stretched as far as possible.
  • Payoff is necessary in order to release and prepare for what's next.