The last post I asked Linda to tell us why she wrote suspense. Today I ask her to share how she does it. Welcome back, Linda. Inquiring minds needs to know.
I’d love to be able to tell someone how to get the crazies out of the head and into the story with some kind of structure. But I am…yes…a seat of the pantster.
And in my case, at least, that makes for one heckuva gigantic PLOT!
I do have a method, and I use it most of the time. When starting a new story, I write a fifty page or so summary. It’s all telling, very little dialogue, but has most of what I want to happen in it. Then I rewrite with dialogue, the five sense, description, and last but not least, character development. And this is where it gets interesting. In fact, the first time it happened, I thought I had completely lost my mind.
It was twenty years ago when I first wrote Blow Out the Candles and Say Good-Bye, my December 2017 release. I had written in a fairly unimportant secondary character who without warning became paramount to the story. He simply took over part of the book. It was satisfying, creepy, and wonderful. Then toward the end, he showed me how very evil he really was. I didn’t expect that for one second. The character I’d planned to fill that slot simply wasn’t crazy enough.
When a character lets me know they aren’t what I’m writing, it goes something like this:
“I’d never kill someone! Are you crazy?” And I think I’ve answered that well enough already.
“Hehehe, fooled even you, the writer. You never saw it coming, did you?” And I’ll discover that he or she is really the evil in the story. That is when that character’s development actually starts. He/she showed me their true personality.
Now, before you slap me in a straitjacket and haul me away, let me say this: writers have hundreds of voices and characters waiting their turn to get out of the writer’s mind and fill the pages. Sometimes, as authors, we simply let the wrong one out at the wrong time. Or, in this instance, at the right time. I had a fairly innocuous character who showed me his evil side, and the darkest malevolence was born, making the story much stronger. I hadn’t planned it, hadn’t intended for him to take such an active role in the story, but take it he did!
So my structure for writing suspense? Take the idea and simply start writing, then as the characters reveal their true inner selves, adjust and write some more. You might find after you’ve finished the entire story that the murderer you picked could never have done such a thing. Don’t try to force the character to fit your mold. GO BACK, and fit the character’s personality to the story, or find another character. One who is much more mad than you’d even planned!
I love plot driven stories. I know, I know. Deep POV and all that jazz. Yes, you need to make those characters sing with a lot of personality and with baggage that make them who they are, even if only alluded to. But for me, it’s the unexpected happening, both with character development and plot that make the reader keep turning pages.
Don’t limit yourself and your ideas, and especially, don’t limit your characters. Let them live their lives. Listen, and discover who they really are. You want your reader to tell you: “I NEVER saw that coming. Really?!?!?” You might surprise us all…
More About Linda S. Glaz
Linda is an author and agent with Hartline Literary Agency.
She’s married with three children and three grandchildren.
Having served in the Air Force at a time when it wasn’t exactly politically correct for a woman, she blazed many firsts for women in the military. She has taught karate and self-defense for thirty years and was a National instructor and referee for the largest soccer youth group in the US for twenty-five years. She isn’t afraid to try something new.
Before joining Hartline, Linda was a reviewer for online romance sites, a final proofreader for a publisher, and organized and ran two separate writers’ groups. She worked for two years as an editorial assistant to Terry Burns at Hartline.
Linda has two novellas, six short novels, one romantic suspense published, and one to release in 2017. Five more are burning a hole in her hopeful pocket.
She’s a member of ACFW, AWSA, and numerous other writers’ groups. She presents nationally each year at conferences, teas, churches, workshops, and various other venues. She’s also active on social media.
Linda loves to laugh and make other people laugh. There is definitely healing and joy in laughter.
She’s forever on the lookout for ideas that will turn into a suspenseful novel, and as an agent, is always looking for that next great blockbuster novel.
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