Writing Suspense by Kathryn Gauci
Writing is a journey of self-discovery for an author. I have just completed my third book and now realise that my writing is taking on a strong element of suspense. I didn’t deliberately set out to do this, I just knew I had a good story to tell. So what is it that makes me write in this manner. Perhaps it’s because, subconsciously or otherwise, that is what I like to read myself, whether it be historical fiction, crime or even a biography, I like to read something that takes me out of my comfort zone and makes my hair stand on end. A good suspense/thriller takes us on a roller-coaster of emotions and although we may think we know where the plot is heading, the twists and turns take us in another direction.
I think the art of suspense is like a slow-burn. It builds up and the reader is caught in the moment, unable to put the book down. At the same time, all the senses must be alive. It adds drama and lends emotion to the story. The reader has to be captivated by the protagonists and they need to identify with them, to put themselves in their shoes and get swept up in the unfolding events. If they care about them, they will care about the outcome. Will they survive and if so, how? Of course not every situation is life or death but the reader must still be kept engaged and guessing.
At the same time, all the senses have to be aroused. It adds drama. For me I think in images first, words second. This is probably because of my design background. Sight, sound, smell, taste – they all create the mood.
Alexandra Sokoloff says in her book, “Stealing Hollywood: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors”, that suspense is “emotional manipulation” so manipulatingany situation will increase suspense. She also describes pacing and rhythm as “a ticking clock”. For me, a good plot is like a painting, it has to have light and shade, variables which gradually turn up the notch both in pacing and emotion. A way to do this is by finishing each chapter with a cliff-hanger in which the reader cannot resist turning the page to find out more. By the time the ending draws near, the pace has quickened considerably and the emotions are also heightened. So far I have found that the ending of each book to be the hardest part to write. I can visualise the scenes but putting it into words is not easy and I believe that much of this has to do with pacing. We cannot let the pace flag and neither can we overly hasten it, or worse still, draw it out. A trick I use now is to just write it down and then pare it back by reading it aloud as if I were acting out the drama. The superfluous elements soon start to fall away.
And when it comes to the end, I dislike unresolved endings or ones that are too obvious and simplistic. As a reader I need to feel satisfied. It may not be the ending I was expecting and it may be subtle. That is fine but in the end, the story and the outcome have to be believable – “I didn’t see that coming” – or suspense falls flat.
If we can transport the reader away from the comfort of their armchair for a brief moment and allow them to live in another world tinged with danger and the unexpected, then we have succeeded.
Kathryn Gauci was born in Leicestershire, England, and studied textile design at Loughborough College of Art and later at Kidderminster College of Art and Design where she specialised in carpet design and technology. After graduating, Kathryn spent a year in Vienna, Austria before moving to Greece where she worked as a carpet designer in Athens for six years. There followed another brief period in New Zealand before eventually settling in Melbourne, Australia.
Before turning to writing full-time, Kathryn ran her own textile design studio in Melbourne for over fifteen years, work which she enjoyed tremendously as it allowed her the luxury of travelling worldwide, often taking her off the beaten track and exploring other cultures. The Embroiderer is her first novel; a sweeping historical saga set in Greece and Turkey during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire until the Nazi invasion of Athens. Spanning 150 years and based on actual events, it has also been translated into Greek.
Her second novel, Conspiracy of Lies, is set in France during WWII. It is based on the stories of real life agents in the service of the Special Operations Executive and the Resistance under Nazi occupied Europe. To put one’s life on the line for your country in the pursuit of freedom took immense courage and many never survived. Kathryn’s interest in WWII started when she lived in Vienna and has continued ever since. She is a regular visitor to France and has spent time in several of the areas in which this novel is set.
Seraphina’s Song, is a novella set in Piraeus, Greece during the 1920’s & 30’s. It is about the harsh lives of the newly resettled Asia-Minor Greek refugees in the shanty towns around Piraeus and a love between a bouzouki player and a night-club singer. It is the second in the Asia Minor Trilogy, The Embroiderer being the first.
Conspiracy of Lies
|Amazon.com: Conspiracy of Lies (9780648123507): Kathryn Gauci: Books
Amazon.com: Conspiracy of Lies (9780648123507): Kathryn Gauci: Books
|Seraphina’s Song – Kindle edition by Kathryn Gauci. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
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