The serial killer has become wildly popular in crime fiction. Maybe they are so fascinating to us, as readers, because they are complicated creatures. They are deliciously bad. We, as writers, are told never to make our antagonist (bad guy) all bad, or our protagonist all good.
Dr. Hannibal Lector is a perfect example of this. Especially the one depicted in the television series, Hannibal.
Dr. Hannibal Lector– played by Mads Mikkelsen– is a brilliant forensic psychologist and culinarian (although some of the ingredients in his dishes are questionable). In one scene we see his soft side with Dr. Alana Bloom, and in the next, he is slaughtering people and arranging them in dramatic convoluted poses. Far beyond what is necessary to end their life. He’s an artist when it comes to designing a shocking display for the FBI. Yet, part of me loves him! Why? Because nothing is black and white with him. He’s justified in his actions, which makes him a perfect character. However, in the real world the serial killer is a frightening creature. And one I never want to come in contact with in a dark alley.
I just completed the first draft of my latest novel, the sequel to Timber Point. The working title was Dancing In The Shadows. However, after completing the novel I thought of a title that fits better: Silent Betrayal.
I often post about what stage I’m at in the process. Therefore, today’s post is about creating tension and suspense in your thriller. (Or in my case, make sure it’s done correctly during editing.) Keep readers on the edge of their seat, flipping the pages.
I came across an article about this topic. If you haven’t read The Kill Zone blog, I highly recommend it. These tips were posted in that blog, but I added my own flair to them. The expository is mine to help you better understand.
1. Condense your setup and backstory.
Nothing is worse than reading ten pages about nothing. All fluff. Or hearing about the protagonist’s entire life story. The author should know the story, but your reader doesn’t need every small detail. However, IF parts of the backstory is relevant to the story line– keep it. Just make it as short as possible. Give the crucial elements your reader NEEDS to know without the fluff. Add emotions, yes, but don’t let it lag along for pages and pages.
I write a lot of my posts according to what I am working on at the time. Right now I am researching a subject for my sequel’s underlying plot. I can’t reveal that subject, but it’s AWESOME! :)
Research is extremely time-consuming but well worth the effort. After all, you never want to get your facts wrong, even with fiction.
Here are my top 5 tips for researching your novel…
1. You will inevitably gather loads of interesting facts about the subject you are researching. Do not use everything you’ve learned. No reader wants an information dump that shows how much you’ve learned, or how smart you are by using the new jargon. Include only the most interesting or necessary facts, those elements that will drive your story forward. And do not allow the research to lead YOU. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the knowledge we’ve gained it’s easy to veer off course. You are the author! YOU control where the story goes, not the research. The story must come first. Be true to it.
Before I begin, I would like to make an announcement. Starting May 22nd, a group of authors and myself will kick off our new blog entitled Prose and Cons. As the date gets closer I’ll give you the address so you can tune in.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
Most readers want a resolution in the end. An ending that satisfies their need to see that everything worked out okay. You can give this to them, of course, but you don’t necessarily have to, either.
Who can forget movies like Psycho, where we thought Mrs. Bates was the killer only to discover it was Norman dressed up as his mother. His mother’s skeleton propped up in a rocking chair in the window. Or Seven, one of my all time favorite movies, when Kevin Spacey’s character set up the perfect surprise ending for Brad Pitt’s character– his wife’s head in a box in the desert!
These faces are what you strive for as a thriller author.
For those of you who write thrillers, I read an incredible article by Writers Digest about the important five elements of thriller writing. Even if you don’t writer thrillers you can still find these tips helpful to create suspense and tension to your writing. I’ll be quoting some of the article, just to give the proper credit to Brian A. Klems, the online editor for Writers Digest. I’ll be adding the techniques I use to the elements.
Characters are the most important element of a novel. Today I will be concentrating mainly on the protagonist, but the same development is necessary for all of your characters. Even the victims! Creating a back story for the dead is done differently. I’ll write about that in a future post. (You can follow this blog by clicking the follow button at the bottom so you don’t miss it.)
If the protagonist is two-dimensional or a cardboard-cutout no one will care what kind of trouble the get themselves into, or how they get themselves out of a sticky situation. Creating that perfect character means giving them flaws, mannerisms, speech pattern, job, style of dress, emotions, appearance, etc…