Showing posts with label thrillers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label thrillers. Show all posts

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Unravel the Mystery of Suspense, Part 1



"We all enjoy, shall we say, putting our toe in cold water." Alfred Hitchcock
The genre, Suspense, as popular as it is and most likely always will be, is at least as large as the topic, Water, which I so winsomely thought up when asked what I was going to write about by one of my first writing instructors. Blank page begged the question: Where to start? No clue; thankfully, resolved in time with a sheer outpouring of effort and will, called, Focus.

Suspense is like that. Your character has a lot going on in her head. And a lot going on in her situation. How, then, do you narrow down your genre?

Start with the Masters
What better way to begin then to go to the top. Alfred Hitchcock earned the title, "Master of Suspense," said Marc Eliot, Film Historian, on Biography.com, after his film Psycho hit the big screen. Born in London, England, on August 13, 1899, Hitchcock's penchant for suspense emerged in the first stories he wrote and published for the in-house publication at a job he took out of college. Biography.com: "From [Hitchcock's] very first piece, he employed themes of false accusations, conflicted emotions and twist endings with impressive skill."

During the 1930's, Hitchcock's early films, including an "exciting treatment" of the Jack the Ripper story, were "responsible for the revival in British movie making." (Notablebiographies.com) In 1939, Hitchcock left England and settled in Hollywood, California, with his wife and daughter. His first American feature film, Rebecca, starring Laurence Olivia and Joan Fontaine, is "considered a great movie," said Jan-Christopher Horak, Director, UCLA, Film and Television Archive, on Biography.com, "because it's a psychological melodrama about the torture that goes on sometimes within families. Hitchcock explores that with a depth that he had not shown before in his films."

The MacGuffin
The MacGuffin is defined as a plot device that motivates the characters, advances the story and increases suspense. Alfred Hitchcock popularized the concept that is said to have originated in 20th century filmmaking. Borgus.com: "The . . . MacGuffin can be boiled down to one thing--nothing. Hitchcock . . . described the MacGuffin as a plot device, or gimmick, on which to hang the tension in a film, 'the key element of any suspense story' (Gottlieb). Because Hitchcock lured the audience to such a high degree of sympathy for the characters through cinematic means, the reason behind their plight became irrelevant . . . Something bad is happening to them and it doesn't matter what. The only reason for the MacGuffin is to serve as a pivotal reason for the suspense to occur."
n can be boiled down to one thing -- nothing. Hitchcock over the
Examples of MacGuffins in other films include, Star Wars' R2D2, described by writer and director George Lucas as "the main driving force of the movie . . . the object of everybody's search"; the meaning of rosebud in Citizen Kane (1941) and the mineral unobtainium in Avatar (2009). (Wikipedia)

John Levesque of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer called Stephen King a "master of the psychological thriller." The Shining has been ranked as one of the best psychological thrillers of all time. When asked at a Highlights Foundation workshop in October, 2012, what author will be remembered for all time, the presenters and participants alike agreed, Stephen King. Born in Portland, Maine, on September 21, 1947, King published his first novel, Carrie, in 1973, after his wife found it in the trash and encouraged him to continue. Indeed, King is "recognized as one of the most famous and successful horror writers of all time. His books have sold more than 350 million copies worldwide and have been adapted into numerous successful films." (Biography.com)


What's the Diff?
  • Suspense: You're sitting on the edge of your seat. You're holding your breath. You can't put the book down. You're asking, "What's going to happen next?" In writing, there has to be a series of events that leads to a climax that captivates the audience and makes them tense and anxious to know what is going to happen. Suspense is a powerful literary tool because, if done correctly, you know your audience will be back for more and more. (http://literary-devices.com/content/suspense)
  • Mystery: You've been presented with a puzzle. Often a crime has been committed and you must find out "who dunnit." There are many tantalizing clues to solve it, but you are perplexed. You want to figure it out. You are challenged. You want to be fooled, the more the better. Who do you suspect and why? You even enjoy following red herrings, those pesky little clues that turn out to be innocent. The game is up at the end; when you find out who did it and why.
  • Thriller: The clock is ticking. There is an immenent danger explained in the beginning that must be dealt with by the protagonist. Generally, the antagonist and the threat are known. Suspense occurs not in who did it, but in how can it be stopped?
  • Mystery Thriller: You want to know who is committing these acts, why is he doing them; and what is the threat to the protagonist and those close to him/her.
  • Psychological Thriller: You're in the protagonist's head. As in the television show, Dexter, a more likely antihero than protagonist, you know what thrilling or frightening acts Dexter has committed. What you want to find out is WHY, and whether more frightening acts will follow.  There can be events that drive the protagonist to question everything about his/her ability to succeed. It could involve questioning his/her sanity or moral compass; questioning what is real or not about the situation; are the supposed 'good guys' friends or foes? The writer's goal is to raise the tension and suspense to a level where the reader feels the inner pain of the protagonist more than the external pain of bombs, bullets, etc. (Mystery-Psychological Thriller definitions from the Psychological Thrillers discussion on goodreads with Charles A. Cornell, author of Tiger Paw)
  • Additional examples of psychological thriller television shows and films: Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland in 24; The Game, with Michael Douglas; Black Swan, with Natalie Portman and Gone Girl, book, by Gillian Flynn, and film. Books include, Before I go to Sleep, S.J. Watson, and The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith. (ranker.com)
Much as I needed to decide what aspect of Water to write about, I needed to narrow down the genre of my two current WIP's. In addition to being family stories with lots of humor, I needed to explore what elements of Suspense each of them contain. My conclusions are tackled in next month's post.
Next month: Part 2, Tips on Writing Suspense Stories for Children

Sources: http://www.biography.com/people/alfred-hitchcock-9340006Alfred Hitchcock, courtesy of the Library of Congress, 
http://www.notablebiographies.com/He-Ho/Hitchcock-Alfred.html; http://borgus.com/hitch/macguffins.htm; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_thriller; http://www.ranker.com/crowdranked-list/the-best-psychological-thrillers-of-all-time; http://www.biography.com/people/stephen-king-9365136; http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1884270-what-s-the-difference-between-a-psychological-thriller-and-a-mystery-thr.

 


Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for adults and children and six short stories for children. Recently she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction and picture book courses. She is currently working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Author, Joylene Butler

In November, we had our 1 year anniversary tour. Each day there were daily prizes and we had a number of winners. One of the choices the winners had was to choose a book or a guest spot right here on the VBT site. Joylene Butler was a winner and chose a guest spot. It’s my pleasure to bring Joylene and her book to you.

A Little About Joylene Butler:

Joylene was born in Manitoba, grew up in Haney (Maple Ridge), and raised their five sons in Pr. George, BC. She and her husband built a cottage on Cluculz Lake in 1992. The jury is out whether they'll retire there or not. Canada is a beautiful place and they could end up anywhere. Which is good because life should be an adventure. Joylene's second novel Broken But Not Dead will be released by Theytus Books in 2011

Wow, a cottage on a lake sounds wonderful!

Please tell us a little more about you and your writing journey.

When I was 8, my mother gave me a diary for my birthday. I didn’t have anything very interesting to write about, but I remember the joy I felt while filling it. As I grew older I looked for journal with more space because I wanted to prolong the experience. By the time I reached high school, I realized that writing made me feel alive. I entered the University at Simon Fraser with the goal of obtaining a teacher’s degree and passing along that joy to my students. It never occurred to me that I should write. It wasn’t until my dad died that I finally did. And that was only because I thought by writing a fictional story of his life I could make him live forever.

That first book Always Father’s Child, immediately shelved, took 7 years to write, and turned out to be a learning tool and catalyst. As soon as I typed “the end”, I started work on Dead Witness.

It’s so interesting how and why writers decide to jump into writing, or are driven to do so.

Now for a little Q and A

Why this book? What prompted you to write it and what do you hope your readers will get out of it?

One day, my brother (he’s a PI) was on the phone talking to one of his employees, when this question popped into my mind: If I disappeared and was presumed dead, would he investigate. Dead Witness grew from there. Honestly, I was such a new writer that I didn’t give much thought to my readers. It was only through years of rewrites that I finally hoped whoever they might be, they’d connect with Valerie and relate to how much love and pain is involved in loving a child.

Tell us a bit about your protagonists, Valerie McCormick and Mike Canaday, and how they came about.

Valerie showed up in my mind as a young Cheryl Ladd, completely in love with her children to the point that she had lost sight of who she was as a person. Not until she’s taken from her family in Canada and made to live as a single woman in the States is she forced to stand up and be accountable for her own life.

Mike Canaday is a VN vet, FBI, divorced and someone who grew up in the system. He’s alone because he doesn’t trust anyone. Because he has few friends and no family, taking Valerie from hers and faking her death is easy for him. All that matters is finding the killer. But it’s through Valerie that he learns what really matters in life.

Please share with our readers a little about the plot, the characters, the setting, of your novel.

Valerie lives in central BC, Canada with her husband and 3 girls. She wins a free trip to Seattle through a writing contest. While there she witnesses the execution of two FBI agents by a Canadian-born drug lord from Colombia. When the FBI uncovers the Mafia’s plot to kill her, they work with the Canadians to fake her death. Canaday flies her to the States, then later is in charge of her WPP; all this while hunting for the killer.

Meanwhile, Valerie’s brother doesn’t believe she’s dead and he starts his own investigation. This alerts the Colombian Mafia and they set up surveillance on him and Valerie’s family. Slowly, Valerie rebels, until finally she takes back control of her life and goes after the killer herself. Besides, Seattle, the story takes place in Nevada, Baja, Berkeley and Pr. George, BC.

Please describe the greatest challenge you faced in writing this book, why it was difficult, and how you resolved it.

Three months into writing Dead Witness we experienced a great loss. I couldn’t write for 6 months. I remember wondering if I ever could again. In the end, I returned to the manuscript and it became a therapeutic tool. I used Valerie’s situation as an outlet for my own range of emotions.

How much and/or what kind of research went into writing this book?

I was lucky because I didn’t know what I could or could not do when I first started writing Dead Witness. When I returned to the ms, I approached anyone who would listen. I talked to lawyers, police, and investigators, and asked question after question. I did a lot of research on line. I even called the FBI in Seattle; they were a big help. I also bugged the heck out of my brother. In total I probably did three months of research.

What do you find the most difficult part of writing in general and what do you do to overcome it?

Good question. I wish I could say there is nothing difficult about writing any more. I mean, remember those early days? The fear in the pit of your stomach that you knew there was something you were missing, but you just weren’t sure what it was? Who would want to go back there? I see it in the faces of new writers, and I’m so relieved that I have confidence now. I can say without hesitation: I am a writer. But writing is still work. I struggle to get the sentences just right. When that’s harder than normal, I walk away from my computer and sit somewhere quiet. Then I run the story through my mind like a video. I close my eyes and get as close to the scene as I can … until I’m there. Then I return to the computer and start writing.

How do you balance your time to make time for writing?

I treat it like a job. I’m up at 6 AM and on the computer by 6:25. I work until breakfast. Yes, My DH makes breakfast every morning. I’m back at it by 7:30, then I work all day until lunch. I stop periodically, see to grandma, throw in a load of wash, or vacuum. Moving around like that helps my back. There’s no rhyme or reason to what I do, other than to share my time between editing, revising, blogging, reading, commenting, critiquing and taking care of my family. I turn the computer off by 6:30 PM, then spend the rest of the evening with my DH and grandma.

What impact would you say completing Dead Witness has had on you personally and on your writing?

It changed my life. I finally understood why I was here and what I was supposed to do. In the early years before I was published, I thought being published would answer all my prayers and make sense of my life. Now that I am published, I realize that nothing but me can do that. Being published or not being published isn’t what it’s about. The secret is in the writing. The simple joy of it.

Who has been the greatest influence on you with respect to encouraging you to write and become a published author?

Besides, my family, my best friend Judith Geib and my dear online buddy Keith Pyeatt have been encouraging and believing in me for many years. I can’t imagine pushing myself as hard as I had to without them cheering me on. Writing is a lonely solitary experience and I’m very fortunate to have such forces of nature.

With respect to your writing, please give us some insight into your writing process. In other words, did you outline the chapters? Did you think about the plot for a while before writing it? What steps did you take before you wrote the first sentence?

My protagonist comes to me. I know they have a problem, but it’s sometimes weeks before it made clear what that is. . It can begin with just the protagonist wandering about, doing every day things, but quickly her or his goal is made clear. The only reoccurring characteristic right up front is they’re all sad.

What are you working on now? What's next?

My current WIP is called Dead Wrong. It’s the story of Jason Sinclair and his estranged daughter Ava. Before Jason can have any peace, he believes he must find out why his wife, Bridget was deliberately run over. Ava blames her dad for not saving her mother. Together they’re on a journey of self-discovery, one in the past and one of them in the present.

Any words of wisdom and advice to aspiring writers?

Although the Internet is an addictive and habit-forming place, concentrate on your writing. Leave the networking for after you find your publisher. Write, write, write. And when you’re not writing read. Learn everything you can possibly learn about the art of writing effectively. Think of it like driving a vehicle: if you’re not absolutely capable, if you don’t practice every minute you can before you head out on the road, you’re in for a possibly serious altercation.

Thanks for sharing with us, Joylene. I completely agree that it’s important to make time for writing. The internet, emails, groups, social networking, and research can be so time consuming; every writer needs to be sure to pay attention to the amount of time being spent on it.



Format: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Joylene Nowell
ISBN - 10:0981030505
ISBN - 13:9780981030500

Other Books by Joylene Butler:

Broken But Not Dead set to be released by Theytus Books 2011
"Man's heart away from nature becomes hard." Standing Bear

To learn more about Joylene go to:


Joylene, it has been a pleasure featuring you on VBT - Writers on the Move. Your books sound great and I wish you much success. 



Karen Cioffi, Children's Ghostwriter







Monday, April 20, 2009

Pierre Dominque Roustan


I'm pretty sure this is VBT's first author interview and it's my pleasure to welcome Pierre Dominque Roustan, author of The Cain Letters. Pierre and I are members of the Facebook group Red River Writers and are participating in their organized tours.

Pierre, I know this is an exciting time for you - you are now published! Please tell us about you and your book.

Wow, this is a nice place you got here, Karen. It’s not every day I get to step out of my pad at the Writing and Reading Universe and explore. Allow me to introduce myself then! Pierre Dominique Roustan. Yes, you readers out there can say it: it’s a cool name. And that’s because I’m cool. I’m a 2nd generation Hispanic, born in Chicago, Illinois, son to a fiery Puerto Rican woman and a tough-as-nails Nicaraguan man. And, yet, you ask why I have such a French name…. Because my dad’s half-French. Yes. It’s true.

I’ve been writing ever since I remembered being able to walk. It was one of those things you just couldn’t get away from, you know? My parents had me tested for giftedness, and the results came back showing I was gifted. What gift(s) I had? Wasn’t sure. Didn’t care. So much so that I sometimes omit the pronouns when I write. However, my parents cared, teachers cared, others cared; and they saw something in me. It didn’t take me long to realize that I loved to write—poetry, fiction, nonfiction, anything. I just had this need to fill the white space on a piece of paper with some sort of manifestation of my imagination (that’s a mouthful there), so much so that I followed my heart and earned a B.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

As I stand now before you, I’m a published author. My debut will be released in December. The number of people I could thank outnumber my fingers and toes and the fingers and toes of my family. I’m not exaggerating. I think it’s fair that I give you some insight into my journey of publication, though….

I write urban fantasy and thrillers (and sometimes those two genres go together for me). My debut is a fast-paced thriller known as THE CAIN LETTERS. Look for it. However, it wasn’t my first finished manuscript, nor my first project.

I actually wrote my first ‘story’ at the tender age of 10, I believe. It was about 20 pages long. The next ‘story’ I wrote landed me a 200-pager. I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but I think I was a freshman in high school. I then wrote another story that stretched to 300 pages long. Here’s the real kicker, though; the next project I took on actually pulled in about 540 pages…. 154,000 words, and the best part about that was I, initially, thought that was too short!

Go figure. I guess I was long-winded.

And then came THE CAIN LETTERS. At 74,000 words, it moved fast. I had learned a lot about storytelling, about pacing, about plot, about character. THE CAIN LETTERS is a culmination of all that I’ve learned.

For those aspiring writers out there, let me tell you: following a dream kills. The good thing, though, is your passion for writing makes you reborn every single time. Through every rejection, every bout with writer’s block, every setback, anything getting in your way, that desire to write brings you back up. Every single time. Let me tell you how dreaming kills: I received over 100 rejections for THE CAIN LETTERS, about 97% of them from literary agents. And those 100 rejections were spread over one year, almost to the day. The middle of March, 2008, was when I finished the manuscript. I just signed my contract with Eirelander Publishing about four days ago—without a literary agent. Funny how time flies.

You never know what’ll happen. I just learned to keep trying. It paid off.

Those who’ve followed my blog might know a bit here and there about the book and the characters, but let me paint a picture for you real quick:


Enter: Alexandra Glade.

An auburn-haired, gray-eyed beauty of a woman, black trench coat, turtleneck and tight pants, armed to the teeth with all kinds of weaponry. Think “The Matrix”, “Underworld”, “Blade” with a little bit of sex appeal, and there’s Alexandra for you. There are days I regret a little bit creating her in my head, because I worry that she might beat the living hell out of me. Because she can. She’s essentially a trained killer.

Only she kills vampires. For a living.

With her team, an organization known as the Berith Lochem, Hebrew for ‘Divine Covenant’, she hunted rogue vampires and other abominations for the sake of God alongside her comrade Kyan Tanaka, a Japanese man bred into the world of a mercenary until he found God. With remarkable resources, the Berith Lochem served the Vatican and other clients looking for a cleansing of some kind. They were like bounty hunters.

It was easy, you know? Hunting vampires. The life was so linear. And simple. Until a strange book surfaced that seemed to be of some interest to many of the damned—most notably two master vampires of cunning strength and power, two of the strongest in the world, actually—a Russian known as Nikolas Stahl and a savage Los Angeles native named Mason Richter. The book had ancient knowledge regarding something that had been locked away, secret, since the beginning of time—

The origin of the vampire. How it all began.

No longer was Alexandra’s life so linear. Her journey suddenly came upon forks of all kinds. And obstacles.

The book, dating way back to the times of the Exodus, revealed the origin. And it was a shocking one. One that would shake the pillars of the world, of faith—

The world’s first vampire was the world’s first murderer. Fitting. And terrifying.

Cain, brother of Abel, son to Adam and Eve, had struck a deal with Satan to cleanse himself of the guilt, the shame, the despair of a dying world and the mark of banishment on him. The cleansing took away his humanity, took away his soul even—and made him into what was commonly known as…vampire.

Driven by blood, as a reminder of Abel’s blood on his hands, Cain walked the earth. Immortal.

What Alexandra realized was that Nikolas and Mason planned on finding Cain. The secret book revealed his hidden location for so many centuries. What Alexandra feared was what they intended to do once they found him—

It didn’t take her long to realize that they were planning on killing him. These two master vampires, countless ages apart from a man of the book of Genesis, were going to silence the father of the damned.

Now on any other day, Alexandra Glade, Berith Lochem vampire hunter of vengeance, she wouldn’t have a problem with the idea of the father of the damned dying. But she knew Scripture. And what she knew terrified her even more than Cain….

She couldn’t allow Nikolas and Mason to kill Cain.... For the sake of the world hung on the balance that Cain had to live. All her training, all her scars, everything, anything that made her who she was, a hunter, she had to forsake and leave, protecting the very first vampire from death. All to save mankind.

Could she make such a decision? With her duty, her need to hunt and kill vampires, her fierce vengeance…. Could she reject all of that…. And save a fierce killer like Cain?


I’ll let that simmer in you a little bit. I can’t give all of it away, people. Come on! You’ll have to read the book when it debuts.

THE CAIN LETTERS is, indeed, a beginning of what is most definitely a series for me. Having landed a contract, you’ll see a few more continuations, following the adventures of Alexandra Glade and the Berith Lochem. But until then, face the fear that is THE CAIN LETTERS. And believe. Believe in evil.

That’s all I got for all of you, readers. Give it up for Karen Cioffi as well! Put your hands together. It has been an honor being her guest, and do give her the honor of reading her work as well. Feel free to make as many comments as you like! Karen and I will be checking. Questions? Concerns? Coffee? Cupcakes?

Well, that's not quite all, Pierre will be back tomorrow with a questions and answers interview.

Don't forget to stop back tomorrow,

Karen

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