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#41 WORKSHOP IV, Sunday, 1:45-2:45 PM Location: Youth Memorial (Center of Campus) Instructor: Colleen Coble, Fiction Freelance Author

THE SUSPENSE THICKENS Structure of a Suspense Novel VOICE: A suspense or mystery needs a voice or tone that stays true all the way through the book. READ FROM HOW TO WRITE MYSTERIES. PG36 What’s your tone? Humorous, gothic, hard-boiled? PACE: Pace is not running from one incident to another. Everyone’s pace is different. Pace is peaks and valleys. It’s the forward progression of the story at its appropriate rate. It allows for anticipatory pauses to shiver and for atmosphere to spellbind and for moments for the reader to identify and empathize with the situation and the characters’ troubles. Pace is the building of momentum and the sustaining of tension for maximum effect of the climax and the satisfying end. It’s your reader wanting to know what’s going to happen. Stir your reader emotionally with problems that need resolution. Two plots: Every good mystery/suspense has at least two, maybe more. The obvious plot on the surface and the one underneath that’s REALLY going on. That’s what red herrings are all about. KNOW YOUR GENRE: Handout: Suspense or Mystery Mystery or Suspense: Mystery: A sudden, violent death is tamed. The detective is in control and makes sense of all the clues. He keeps his head in all situations and has the skills necessary to solve the puzzle. It’s all about the puzzle. How he did it and how did he cover it up. A more cerebral story with using your head. Protagonist usually doesn’t grow or change. Suspense: The trouble is the protagonist’s, and he’s the one thrust into the center of chaos and danger. Usually does NOT have the skills necessary and must develop them. It’s a much more emotional story. Emotions are front and center. A suspense or mystery gives us a strong hero we can identify with. An overcomer who grows and changes through the story’s pages. The overarching mystery genre has several subgenres. It’s important to identify what it is you write. Go over handout. COMING UP WITH AN INITIAL IDEA: This comes from so many places: an article in newspaper or magazine, a documentary on TV, a nature show, a show about dangerous jobs, another book, etc. Take the initial idea and distill it down to a one sentence hook. SETTING: Setting is much underrated in a novel. It can actually help you come up with the plot if you research where you’d like to set a book. My Midnight Sea was on a coffee farm. The


setting can be a huge part of the plot. Don’t discount it. You want to write a story that HAS to be set where you place it or it’s not the same story. Setting can help set the TONE of the book. Setting encompasses all the senses. Setting helps define character Draw map Setting can illustrate inner landscape and feelings Setting enhances sense of danger CHARACTER: Handout: Character Worksheet Ah, it all revolves around character, doesn’t it? If your story isn’t structured around character, your readers won’t remember it the next day let along the next week or the next month or for a lifetime. NAMES ARE VITALLY IMPORTANT!!! 1. What’s her name? 2. Interesting profession—I like to pick something I want to learn about. 3. Problem that makes him/her sympathetic, a wound of some kind 4. Have courage—it can show itself in small ways in the beginning 5. Have a special talent. Something that makes him/her interesting. Maybe she can pick up stuff with her toes. Maybe she can hit tennis balls blindfolded. Something that lifts her from the ordinary. 6. Is self sacrificing—he/she isn’t self serving. Is out for justice for a good reason. 7. Loyal to friends. Good to have a confidante in the book. 8. Give your hero/heroine a quirk. It’s cool if it’s the opposite of what you expect: say a prim and proper librarian rides a Harley. This helps to create unforgettable characters. VILLAIN: The villain can make or break your suspense novel. This is the plot behind the plot. Who is he and why did he do it? Look at the whole story from your murderer’s POV. What is his goal? Make him a worthy opponent, not all bad. As complex as the heroine. 1. He is the pivotal character. The one who drives the action. His actions cause your other characters to react. 2. What is his ruling passion? What drives him every day? 3. He is evil so he acts out of his own self interest. If you have a self sacrificing villain, you strip your story of the power of justice. 4. The murderer will not appear to be evil. 5. He will be clever and resourceful. 6. He will have a wound that fuels his ruling passion. 7. He will be afraid. His fear will make him more dangerous. 8. Take a bell curve. Most of us will fall in the middle of the bell. But the most interesting characters will fall on the edges. SECONDARY CHARACTERS: Vital to the story. Come up with conflicts between characters. Look at your characters now. What are the conflicts between them? Look at every one of your characters as if the book is THEIR story? Their goals should be in conflict with your main character for maximum conflict. Even a friend isn’t there just to be a friend and helper. She has a life, a plan for her future. Figure out how they are in conflict. These conflicts add layers.

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