Thursday, 30 August 2012

Raising Hell or Raising the Stakes?

To the Max

One thing that all thriller writers should have in common is the ability to take the suspense to the ultimate level. This is the difference between a suspenseful tale and a damn good thriller.
 I always associate reading a thriller with the experience of riding a roller coaster. The ride is full of scary ups and downs …
First we toil steadily upwards whilst the suspense builds. We giggle nervously because we know what will happen when we get to the top… Or do we?  We know (and expect) we will experience a rush of adrenalin but until we actually get there we do not know exactly what it will be like.  The anticipation is enough to get your pulse racing and your palms sweating as you hold onto the safety bar and stare upwards at the sky ( best not to look downwards…)
When finally we get to the top we hold our breath… Prepare for the downward whoosh… Then we are plunging downwards and most of us cannot help but let out a terrified scream! Yes, scary… We asked for it and we got it! But fear is not pleasant, you say… But it is when you finally get back to earth, realise it is all over and, crucially, you are still in one piece.  This is the thrill that many live for – the intense emotion of having survived.
For most ordinary people the roller coaster is a harmless way of experiencing that thrill. For readers of good thrillers that is what they too expect – perhaps in not such a dramatic way but the highs of a thriller story must be towering and the lows… Well, low...  The ride up must be full of incident and the tension and suspense should mount up as the plot gathers pace. Then, in my opinion, the suspense should be taken to the max and not wimped out on. When you think your character cannot take any more ( or things could not be more deadly )that’s when you need to up the stakes and max it.  You can always toss in the kitchen sink!
Do you think in terms of raising the stakes higher and higher in your novel writing?


  1. It's for the thrill... maybe that's why I want to write thrillers.

  2. Great post! And great analogy. I think it's SO important to keep raising those stakes! Especially in ways that make the stakes broader or more personal.

    1. It's about eliciting more and more emtoion isn't it? No matter what the story is about.
      thanks for commenting, Peggy.

  3. I think this applies to all genres of writing. It's just the the roller coasters may not be as tall or as terrifying, but still they have their ups and downs, highs and lows.

    1. I agree with you there. It's not just about thrillers but all fiction - especially if you want to keep the reader reading!

  4. You are so right. I love the analogy. It's the books that take you on a roller-coaster ride that stick in your mind isn't it x

  5. Great post. I think we could all take something from this. All genres would benefit from holding that suspended time while the reader keeps turning the pages. It's an art to get it right

  6. If a book has my heart pounding like a roller coaster ride, the writer has definitely done their job! I do try to keep raising the stakes.

  7. I definitely do! Sometimes I have to guard myself against raising them *too* high!

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