Tag Archives: suspense

How do they do it? The Literary Masters of Suspense and Their Secrets

How do they do it? The Literary Masters of Suspense

As a mid-career novelist, I am attempting to forge fiction that is a hybrid of the literary and mystery and suspense genres.  And I have my role models, novelists whose work while suspenseful, also showcase in-depth characterization as well as consistently elegant and thought-provoking sentences that rival anything published in the “literary genre.”

One preeminent writer of this sort of fiction is the late Iris Murdoch, a Booker Prize-winning novelist as well as a professor of philosophy at Oxford, whose deeply thoughtful novels are often characterized by gruesome acts of violence and torture (both physical and psychological) and delicately wound in a golden thread of suspense. Two of her books, each of which involves small-town life, were particularly inspirational. First and foremost is The Word Child whose protagonist, Hilary Burde, an abused orphan, finds that his gift for language (how it works and fits together in poetry as well as prose), wins him a place at Oxford. Burde graduates with high honors, lands a teaching job at his alma mater, and at the height of his career, enters a love affair with a married woman, which is found out and causes him to lose his hallowed place in academia and bottom out.  Hilary ends up in a boring, unchallenging office job and one day learns that his new boss is the husband of the woman with whom he has had the affair.  The way Murdoch maneuvers her characters and situations with deep insight into love and relationships is intense and suspenseful, and from research into her personal life, I conclude that she has drawn the portraits of her characters from the obsessive, arguably destructive love affairs that punctuated her life—until she became afflicted with dementia.

 

Adding to this suspenseful novel is another Murdoch in the same vein, A Fairly Honourable Defeat, which begins as an experiment by a sinister character named Julius who aims, through a series of false claims and lies, to undermine the loyalties of couples (both gay and straight) and wreaks havoc on the lives of people who presume him to be a friend.  The book is perfectly balanced between plot and characterization and is founded on a provocative idea: that evil is communicated throughout the world by people who suffer from it and who are willing to pass their suffering and this evil onto the next person.  And the only way evil is stopped is when the suffering person makes a conscious attempt not to pass it on.

From Murdoch I move on to an American novelist, William Kent Krueger, the author of the Cork O’Connor series of mysteries whose stand-alone novel, Ordinary Grace, paints an indelible portrait of a small Minnesota town in the early 1960s and whose first-person protagonist, the son of a preacher, recounts a summer of five deaths, some of them accidental, some of them murders, and one of them, tragically, of his older sister.  This potent coming-of-age novel rivals similar novels such as To Kill a Mockingbird and A Separate Peace, and takes its title from how the narrator’s father handles all sorts of difficult situations with ordinary grace.  This book won the Edgar Award for best novel for a work of fiction published in 2012 and in many ways is remarkably similar to Louise Erdrich’s The Round House, another first-person coming-of-age novel set in the same part of the world portrayed by the winner of the National Book Award in the same year.  Having read and admired both of these novels, I would be hard-pressed to choose which one is better, and I have no doubt that Erdrich and Krueger probably read one another’s novels and admired them as much as I did.

Source: strandmag.com

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Elements of Suspense: The Cliffhanger

Once upon a time writers actually left their characters hanging from cliffs. In the early days of movies, when theaters ran serialized episodes of a story, a cliffhanger ending was a good way to ensure viewers would make the effort to come back next week. The same was true for serialized novels run in newspapers and magazines. Writers intentionally left characters hanging (not necessarily from a cliff) to entice readers to purchase the next installment.

Today’s readers and moviegoers may roll their eyes at Pauline hanging by her fingertips from a cliff, but the cliffhanger technique is still very much in use. If we change the definition of cliffhanger from:

a situation of imminent disaster usually occurring at the end of an episode of a serialized film

to the broader concept of:

a moment of unresolved danger or conflict

then a cliffhanger can happen anywhere a writer needs to crank up the tension. The key here is unresolved. Something is left hanging.

Consider the commercial breaks in a typical detective show. When do the breaks happen? Just after some new evidence is discovered that threatens to take the investigation in a whole new direction. Viewers are left hanging during the commercial, wondering what the hero will do with the new information.

In a similar vein, writers use the cliffhanger technique at the end of a chapter, scene, or beat to keep readers turning pages.

How to use the unresolved tension of a cliffhanger to increase suspense in your manuscript

  1. End a scene in the middle of danger. The tried and true cliffhanger ending—a bad thing has happened and the character is left some kind of danger at the end of a scene. You might switch to a different set of characters in the next scene and leave the poor hero hanging for a scene or two, or you might continue the action in the next scene. Either way, the reader must keep reading to find out how the situation is resolved.
  2. End a scene by hinting that a bad thing is about to happen. The doorknob turns… A shadowy figure appears in the window… The heroine hears the voice she’s been dreading for pages… This is similar to number one, except the danger is only implied, leaving the reader to imagine all sorts of horrible things that are about to ensue.
  3. End a scene by hinting that a bad thing might be about to happen. A subtler variation of number two. Instead of the heroine hearing a voice she recognizes and dreads, what if she hears a voice she doesn’t recognize? Is it a friend or a foe? The reader doesn’t know until they read on.
  4. End a scene on an ambiguous note. Instead of making it clear exactly what happened and how that affects the main character, try leaving things a little less clear. Sometimes a writer can accomplish this simply by backing up a few sentences. Instead of ending the scene with the sleuth deciding she needs to question the shop clerk, back up a few sentences and end with the information that could be interpreted to mean the clerk was guilty.

The cliffhanger technique isn’t just for the end of chapters or episodes, however. You can use subtle touches of cliffhanger anywhere in your story.

  1. End a conversation with a tantalizing bit of information. Imagine the sleuth is talking with an informant who tells him about a new clue that’s come to light. But instead of giving all the details right away, the informant says, “I found something in the wall of the garage. You’d better come take a look.” The sleuth will naturally ask for details, but the if informant refuses to give them, both sleuth and reader will be dying to find out what’s been unearthed. Ratchet up the tension further by forcing the sleuth to finish his current task before he can go take a look.
  2. Leave a character in a high emotional state. Tension is not only created by external danger. Sometimes the conflict is within a character.  Examples: The hero gets word his wife has cancer while in the middle of a meeting, or the heroine has an argument with her fiancé but has to break it off to interview a key suspect. These bits of unresolved life issues can add tension even when they have nothing to do with the main plot.

Bottom line: Look for places in your story where you can leave a situation unresolved, however briefly. Closure is important at the end of story, but unresolved tension is what keeps the reader turning page after page to get there.

By Lisa E. Betz
Source: almostanauthor.com

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First Edition Design Publishing Releases The Morphine Murders by LJ King #FED_ebooks #Author #Writer

First Edition Design Publishing

First Edition Design Publishing has released LJ King’s debut novel The Morphine Murders.

The Morphine Murder’s protagonist Raina Prentiss jeopardizes her relationship, her job, a friendship, and maybe her life in LJ King’s breakout murder mystery. Prentiss goes full force into a double murder investigation without a badge, superpowers, or a vampire boyfriend.

First Edition Design eBook Publishing (aggregator) formats, converts and submits your book to over thousands of eBook distribution points worldwide and to the top internet retailers including but not limited to - Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Google, EBSCO and Diesel. We format and convert your book to the different needs of each distribution point, including a custom ePub file. We will assign a custom ISBN for your eBook / POD publication, as well as register and submit your title to the Library of Congress (POD)

Author LJ King

Raina Prentiss never imagined that she would investigate a homicide beyond the comfort of her couch, armed with a remote, but that’s exactly what happens when she inadvertently finds circumstantial evidence connecting her boss to not one, but two local murders. With the reluctant approval of her police lieutenant boyfriend, Danny, she launches Mission Bottle to obtain her boss’ DNA. She recruits her co-worker, Tyler, to divert their boss’ attention while Raina sneaks around and swipes his water bottle. But a simple waft of Tyler’s scent, or the heat from his body, transports her back to the feeling of the feather-light pressure of his mouth on hers, teasing her, taunting her, during the passionate kiss she found herself entwined in a few weeks prior. With no DNA found at the crime scenes to match to their sample, Raina together with Tyler, and Danny and his detectives, continue to investigate. Because of her easy access to her boss, Raina is convinced that she is the key to obtaining proof and solving the case. Determination blinds the risks incurred by hunting a killer, as Raina uses inside information from Danny to plan her next mission. 

LJ King’s 252 page suspense filled thriller The Morphine Murders is available in hardcover, softcover and ebook formats at all on-line booksellers.  

When New York author LJ King isn’t defending her position that she is not an eccentric recluse but a focused writer, she is out of her office at the beach, playing tennis, gardening, and doing things with people.

For more about The Morphine Murders and LJ King visit www.ljking.net

First Edition Design Publishing  is the world’s largest eBook and POD (Print On Demand) distributor. Ranked first in the industry, First Edition Design Publishing converts, formats and submits Fiction, Non-Fiction, Academic and Children’s Books to Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Google, Kobo, Diesel, 3M, Ingram, Baker and Taylor, Nielsen, EBSCO, and scores of additional on-line retailers, libraries, schools, colleges and universities. The company also has a POD  division, which creates printed books and makes them available worldwide through their distribution network. The company is a licensed and approved Aggregator and holds licenses with both Apple and Microsoft. First Edition Design Publishing is the world’s largest eBook and POD (Print On Demand) distributor. Ranked first in the industry, First Edition Design Publishing converts, formats and submits Fiction, Non-Fiction, Academic and Children’s Books to Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Google, Kobo, Diesel, 3M, Ingram, Baker and Taylor, Nielsen, EBSCO, and scores of additional on-line retailers, libraries, schools, colleges and universities. The company also has a POD division, which creates printed books and makes them available worldwide through their distribution network. The company is a licensed and approved Aggregator and holds licenses with both Apple and Microsoft.

  www.firsteditiondesignpublishing.com

First Edition Design Publishing is the world’s largest eBook and POD (Print On Demand) distributor. Ranked first in the industry, First Edition Design Publishing converts, formats and submits Fiction, Non-Fiction, Academic and Children’s Books to Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Google, Kobo, Diesel, 3M, Ingram, Baker and Taylor, Nielsen, EBSCO, and scores of additional on-line retailers, libraries, schools, colleges and universities. The company also has a POD division, which creates printed books and makes them available worldwide through their distribution network. The company is a licensed and approved Aggregator and holds licenses with both Apple and Microsoft.