Reflections on Suspense

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A writer of suspense and thrills looks to the gotcha…

Being asked to write about the method I use in writing my suspense thrillers, such as the novel “C Street”, left me reflecting. How do I do it? I realize that I first create most of my plot in my head, roll it around until it my brain says, “yes!” Then the work begins.

I choose to begin writing before I outline. During the writing process, I find that ideas for the later parts of the story become my outline, and are pasted below the part of the text on which I’m working.

I offer several tips. Characters must be realistic, but that realism is taken to the edge of the envelope. I introduce them for the reader to love or hate immediately and then intensify and add reasons throughout the story that may change the reader’s mind or reinforce their original opinions. I stay away from the “do’s and don’ts lists” which are many and vary from different sources…for fear I would produce nothing but 1000 page of mediocre repetition. I ask the more important question, is this story told in a way the reader can enjoy with ease every page?

Research – I said research. Let me repeat it one more time, research. The line between fact and fiction is a thing as thin as the line between genius and insanity.  The events that trigger a story and that occur within it must be well researched, as must the locales in which the story develops.  It is for the reader to decide for themselves what has basis in fact and what is purely fictional. This is probably the most fun for the writer – prompting readers to question whether an event happened, if it could happen, or if it is happening now.

I first want the reader to know of the possible dangers to the characters and the emotions controlling them. I then develop the plot so that the reader can speculate about if and how each character will cope with and survive those dangers and emotions. Throughout the story, I want the reader to go places with the characters, to feel their deepest emotions and their passions. I also choose to ask the reader to reflect on the world we live in and the possibilities for good, evil, and the gray areas between the two that fill our world. I believe the writer must strike a balance between love and hate, between good and evil, and between sex and violence in crafting a story.

Writing is like playing chess, thinking five moves ahead. Just when the reader thinks they know what is about to happen, something much deeper really is going on. For me, it often plays like a movie in my head, and I am typing to keep up with my thoughts. I also like to finish a book with an unexpected twist, yet one that has always been developing through the plot line. The reader should never expect it, but instead say, “They got me!” when it happens.

In my fiction books, I want my words to reflect personality traits existing in everyone, even the parts of us we are unwilling to acknowledge. There are those characteristics in us all, whether or not we can say of a character, “that is me,” or “I want it to be me. I believe all writers carry their own history into fiction work, no matter how small or large.

C Street began as a book that had to be written, the reality of how the men (and women) of our government have unlimited control of our country, of how they enjoy every moment and every dollar they receive, and of the possibilities (or perhaps the realities) of their abuse of that power and control. The sequel to “C Street” is now in progress. It will tell from a different point of view of the roads of gold built by the powerful of this world. Of course, the love of two unforgettable characters Jacqueline and Solomon will be the weave to the tapestry.

1 Comment
  1. Andy Bachman says

    I’ll remember to pay enough attention to the gotcha!
    Thinking many moves ahead in writing is very difficult and needs a lot of re-writing.
    For the moment I’ll stick to Flash-fiction 🙂

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