I struggle with this as I create suspenseful scenes. I'll use one of the trite phrases and then rack my brain for ways to improve the writing, all the while keeping the shock and awe.
A sound can do it. "Bang!" The crack of gunfire. A ringing phone. The roar of an engine.
Employing phrases that are not so obvious can work as well, although sometimes when I reread things like Almost immediately or All at once, they grate on my ear. Am I just super picky?
Of course, surprise can be introduced almost matter-of-factly, and maybe that is the most powerful way to do it.
As I write this, I'm leafing through The Da Vinci Code for some illustrations for my point, when I come across this piece of narration on page 275:
A sudden movement behind him caught his attention. Out of nowhere, a crushing blow to the head knocked Langdon to his knees.
Out of nowhere? Hmmm. I don't think any of us would call Dan Brown an amateur.
What are your thoughts? Any tips to share on this topic? How do you transition to surprise?