The Author as Terrorist: How to Think Like a Suspense Writer (#1)

I love a good suspense novel–the kind that grabs you with the first line, slowly tightens its grip for 400 pages, and doesn’t let go until the very end. I’ve also written suspense since I was in high school, and now I even get paid for it.So when CAN invited me to join this blog, it was only natural to do a series of posts on suspense writing. The series is titled The Author as Terrorist because … well, keep reading and I’ll explain.

We’ve all read—or at least started to read—thrillers that failed to thrill. They never catch fire or lose our attention after twenty pages. Before you know it they’ve been tossed in the box of books we’re donating to the next library book sale. And those are the ones that got published; hundreds of thousands of suspense novels die every year in the slush piles of agents and editors, mourned only by their authors. What went wrong with these books? More important, what went right with books that did grab us?

Good suspense novels tend to have good writing, of course. We care about the characters, chuckle at the witty dialogue, and admire the vivid description—but any good novel should have all of that. What sets a good suspense novel apart?

The key to answering that question lies in one of the favorite axioms of writing guru Randy Ingermanson: The goal of all fiction writing is to create a powerful emotional response in the reader. A romance writer wants to inspire longing and love. A mystery writer strives for intense curiosity followed by satisfaction when the mystery is unraveled at last. A horror writer, of course, tries to horrify.

And a suspense writer should create suspense, right? Readers should genuinely think that something awful might happen to a character they really care about. Better still, readers should wonder what exactly might happen and to which character.

The best suspense writers tend to think like old-fashioned terrorists. Really. The main goal of most terrorists in the 1960s and 1970s was not to kill people or blow up buildings, but to create a pervasive atmosphere of fear and uncertainty that made it impossible for their fellow citizens to lead normal lives. That, of course, is exactly the effect we suspense writers want to have on our readers. We want to make them miss their bus stops, skip meals and stay up way past their bedtimes because they absolutely have to know what’s going to happen next.

Up next month in part #2: Starting with a Bang. It will appear on Friday, September 18.

Cross-posted at http://canblog.typepad.com/canbookmarketing/

369 comments

  1. Hey! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 4! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the outstanding work!

  2. My brother recommended I might like this website.
    He was totally right. This post truly made my day.
    You cann’t imagine just how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

  3. I will right away take hold of your rss feed as I can not to find your e-mail subscription
    link or newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Kindly permit me understand in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  4. I think this is among the most significant info for me.
    And i’m glad reading your article. But should remark on some general things, The site style is perfect, the articles is really great : D. Good job, cheers

  5. It’s hard to come by well-informed people about this topic, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about!

    Thanks

  6. Wonderful beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your web site, how can i subscribe for a blog web
    site? The account aided me a acceptable deal. I
    were a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered vivid transparent concept

  7. Greetіngѕ from Cοloraԁo! Ι’m bored at work so I decided to check out your site on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the information you present here and can’t
    waіt to take a look when I get home. I’m amazed at how fast your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I’m not even usіng WIFI,
    just 3G .. Anyways, great blοg!

  8. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you
    wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with some pics to drive
    the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is excellent
    blog. A great read. I will certainly be back.

  9. だから人々はいつか偽ブランドを購入した後にだまされている

  10. Thanks for writing in such an encouraging post.I had a glimpse of it and couldn’t stop reading till I finished.I have already bookmarked you. steam turbine

  11. Hi there! I simply would like to offer you a huge thumbs up for your great information
    you have here on this post. I am coming back to your website for more soon.

  12. Hi, i think that i saw you visited my site thus i came to “return the favor”.I’m
    trying to find things to improve my site!I suppose
    its ok to use some of your ideas!!

  13. Hello all, u can visit this site http://www.extreametravel.com very good with more videos pictures and posts about extreme sports!

  14. Hey! Do you know if they make any plugins to
    help with SEO? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good gains.

    If you know of any please share. Thank you!

  15. Hello there, You have done a fantastic job. I will certainly digg it
    and personally suggest to my friends. I’m sure they will
    be benefited from this website.

  16. I’m not sure why but this web site is loading extremely slow for me.
    Is anyone else having this issue or is it a problem on my end?

    I’ll check back later and see if the problem still exists.

  17. I visited various blogs but the audio feature for audio songs present at this site is
    truly excellent.

  18. Organic eating is additionally vital for children’s well-being, and also adults.

    If you need a great jumping off point, read this guide.
    In a bowl, combine the Lite Miracle Whip or mayonnaise, lemon peel, sea salt and pepper.

  19. Enjoyed examining this, very good stuff, thanks .
    “To be positive To be mistaken at the top of one’s voice.” by Ambrose Bierce.

  20. Hello to all, how is the whole thing, I think every one is getting more from this website, and
    your views are pleasant in favor of new people.

  21. Пацанский пабликВ HD День Могу сказать Лучшее Лучшее в мировой паутине, советую всем https://vk.com/club78598960

  22. Привет, друзья!

  23. If you wish for to improve your experience only keep visiting this site and be updated with the most recent news
    update posted here.

  24. Компания “Линкольн Н” много лет на рынке предоставления в аренду различного вида транспорта: автобусы, микроавтобусы, микроавтобусы VIP-класса, лимузины, автомобили как представительского так и эконом класса.

  25. Thanks to my father who stated to me on the topic of this website, this blog is truly awesome.

  26. Если умеешь сочинять и есть фантазия поучаствовать в создании своей игры, приходи к нам: http://www.areatest.ru

  27. Недавно нашел замечательный сервис для сокращения ссылок онлайн, использую его для своих реферальных ссылок, а затем отправляю друзьям, попробуйте и вы, вот ссылка: http://UrlCut.ru

  28. Купил внове ирамиду из шунгита 15 см могу говорить весь доволен приобретением, советую всем поручение делал путем сайт интернет магазина, обработали быстрее чем я думал, консультанты для сайте вежливые и отзывчивые,нравиться было.)) Вот доказательство на сам сайт,кому надо http://karstone.net

  29. Каждому Доброе утро! Заходите на CNUKEP CNUKEP.RU-все лучшие новости о животных и птицах а так же об аквариумных рыбках

  30. Здравствуйте! Приглашаем посетить наш сайт на котором

  31. Каждому Привет! Заходите на UMITAL UMITAL.RU-самые свежие новости шоубизнеса со всего мира

  32. Всем Привет! Заходите на CNUKEP CNUKEP.RU-все лучшие новости о животных и птицах а так же об аквариумных рыбках

  33. Мы Приветствуем Вас.!

  34. Мы будем весьма рады Вам если вы посетите наш увлекательный ресурс,

  35. Мы будем весьма рады Вам.!Посетите наш увлекательный ресурс,

  36. С этим трудно не согласиться.http://aroundglobe.ru/

  37. Hi, I would like to subscribe for this blog to take newest updates, therefore where can i do it please assist.

  38. Analyzing the militant actors described above as insurgents while continuing to publicly refer to them as terrorist groups will allow governments to enjoy the benefits associated with the use of the terror label while significantly reducing the possible costs of this approach by avoiding some of the blind spots and pitfalls that often accompany the use of the terrorism moniker.

  39. We’re a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme inn our community.
    Your website offered us with valuable info to work on. You’ve done a formidable job and our entire community will be grateful to you.

  40. Attractive articles around medicine and unconventional stories

  41. Interesting articles in all directions drug and assorted stories

  42. Inclusive Intelligence Far this product

  43. Intriguing articles recklessly hypnotic and in contrast with stories

  44. Engrossing facts around this by-product

  45. General Intelligence About this offering

  46. Engrossing articles -away pharmaceutical and unlike stories

  47. Intriguing articles -away opiate and divergent stories

  48. Captivating facts around this product

  49. Attractive articles -away pharmaceutical and divergent stories

.