Dramaquill's All Things Writing

March 19, 2009

Suspense novels – are they really so easy to write?

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 10:50 PM

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As I sat working on my second suspense novel, I got bogged down verifying some of the details.  Whenever I hit a hump during my creative writing time, I surf other blogs and articles related to what I’m writing.

I found an interesting, yet over simplified article written by a man who claims that suspense novels are the easiest type to write because they just follow a simple formula:

1:   Decide on your topic

2:    Start at the end, rather than the beginning

3:    Wait as long as possible to reveal the bad guy/killer

Although these ideas are all good ones, I don’t believe that just by doing these three things a writer is guaranteed a great suspense novel without too much trouble.  In fact, I think this is a major oversimplification of the entire process.

Yes, you have to decide on the type of suspense novel you want to write, ie “woman in peril”, “a whodunnit”, “psychological thriller”, “the killer is someone you know and you don’t suspect” etc. etc. etc. 

And yes, knowing how everything should end can be helpful when putting together your plot points and ensuring that you dangle tidbits of evidence throughout the chapters to entice the reader to continue turning the pages.

I had trouble with number three.  Some of the best suspense novels begin with us already knowing the killer.

But I had the most trouble believing that by doing these three things, it would be easy to create suspense novels.

What about the characters?  We have to have a reason to care what happens to the protagonist and we won’t care if that character doesn’t engage us in some way.  We also have to believe that the antagonist is really a source of danger to the protagonist.

Then there’s the matter of the plot.  Just by choosing the type of suspense novel, we do not have a well thought out plot that dangles bits of information cleverly throughout the chapters so that the smart reader can perhaps guess the identity of the antagonist even before we’ve revealed it.  And we do not have a series of events that all move our plot forward.

Anyone who’s ever attempted to write a suspense novel knows that they must research any relevant procedures, ie police, medical, legal etc.  Readers aren’t stupid.  They won’t fall for plots with holes in them because the writer didn’t do the research.

Then, there’s the setting.  Having someone follow your protagonist is suspenseful, however, if it’s in a department store in broad daylight while surrounded by other shoppers it’s not nearly as frightening as if it’s down a dark alley at 2:00 a.m. during a rain storm.

So my advice is this:  Don’t believe everything you read and don’t think that writing a novel of any kind is going to be easy.

But, with hard work, dedication and a great deal of revising, you could be the next Mary Higgins Clark.

If you’d like to read the article to which I refer, here’s the link:
You be the judge!

1 Comment »

  1. […] Suspense novels – are they really so easy to write? March 2009 […]

    Pingback by 2010 in review « Dramaquill’s Weblog — January 9, 2011 @ 5:15 PM | Reply

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