I just saw a heartrending scene on TV (Law and Order, actually), which would be devastating anyway-- parents identifying the body of their slain child. But the scene made it even more excruciating. When the cover was drawn back, the mother breathes a sigh of relief and says, "It's not my baby." For a moment, there's this hope... and hope, you know, is the most dangerous emotion of all. The husband looks at her, and embraces her, and his face tells the truth-- it is indeed their son.
I'm wondering if that moment of misdirection is something we can use when we designe scenes, as long as it fits and doesn't seem contrived. (In this case, of course, we understand that the mother might wish so hard she sees what's not there, or doesn't see what is there.) The misdirection gives another moment of suspension, a gathering of dread and hope-- and then the emotion that results is that much more intense.
How can we postpone the emotional denouement to increase the power? It's all in scene design.