Friday, June 14, 2013

Writing: Increasing The Tension

I received an email recently from a reader who was half-way through Stress Test, and (although they were enjoying the book) said something to the effect that I'd certainly found lots of ways to put my hero in jeopardy. I took that as a compliment. Even though I pride myself on writing "sleep with the lights OFF suspense," I try to keep the reader involved, making them want to turn the pages.

Recently, I've found myself involving firearms more in my books. It hasn't been a conscious decision. Probably more related to the state of our world today. But, as Chekhov said, if a gun is shown on stage in the first act, it must later be fired. And to do that requires some ingenuity.

My email correspondent was just starting his own road to writing, and in light of the subject matter of this post, let me pass on some of the best writing advice I've ever received. This came from agent, Donald Maass, who is something of a legend in the writing world. At one of his workshops, he said, "Think of the worst thing that could happen to your protagonist." There was silence, followed by a few shivers, as we all considered that. Then Maass said, "Now make it worse."

That, friends, is one of the secrets of writing good suspense.

Any questions about writing? If I don't know the answer, I'll bet I know someone who does.

(photo via freedigitalphotos.net)

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