Monday, 27 February 2012


K – Killer
So many types of fiction have murders in them that it feels almost unnecessary to have ‘who dun it’s’ as a genre. My own fiction is mostly supernatural thriller writing but somewhere in the story, there will likely be a dead body/murder of some kind.
I suppose death fascinates and scares all of us but it becomes really shocking when people have died in violent circumstances, or by another’s hand. It threatens all that we hold dear – that of being able to accept death as natural and inevitable at some point when our bodies wear out… None of us want our lives to end this way…
So perhaps that is why we abhor people who take life (kill or murder), so much. I think it is also the fact that the majority of ordinary people cannot imagine how someone can kill as it goes against what we perceive as the nature of being human and protective of fellow human beings. Killers, who murder and mutilate appear to have little regard for human life and appal and fascinate us at the same time. We cannot put ourselves (mostly) in their place and carry out the same deeds.
From time immemorial murderers have been the antagonists and adversaries in all types of fiction. The policeman/woman, in crime writing, trying to solve a case finds the murderer a tough opponent in a battle of wits and the secret agent in spy thrillers may well be trying to stop the murder of many. The war hero/cowboy fighting an enemy he perceives has murdered his fellow countrymen… Even some romance stories take murder and mayhem as their settings. But the ultimate fictional murderer has to be the Devil himself who not only kills but takes souls!
Whilst, in real life, unlawful killings are relatively few, in fiction they happen left right and centre!  They add an extra dimension for so many stories because there are no higher personal stakes than the risk of losing one’s life!
For myself, I relish dreaming up a murderer for my stories – it is wicked!
Do you use killers in your stories - even if you don't write in the crime genre?

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Journey is key...

J – Journey

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ursula K. LeGuin.
I chose the word journey for this post but I was unsure whether I was going to refer to the personal journey that I have made since started putting my thoughts down on paper, or whether I was going to refer to the journey that my characters undertake in my thriller writing. On reflection, I will save the personal stuff for another time.
The idea of a journey is one that is familiar to all writers of fiction, in that the main character always has some kind of journey, even if it is purely in the mind. Characters undergo change of some kind from beginning to end of a story otherwise it is a more of an essay or anecdote.
But then, I think if a character has an actual journey – possibly one they didn’t really want to undertake in the first place - then that adds tension and  suspense in the way of a ‘will they, won’t they’ get to journey’s ( reach their goal) end? I suppose you could say the whole thrust of a good story is a journey from the opening sentences to the final last words. And in that respect, the final words need to leave the reader feeling satisfied that the journey was worth it and the character got there in the end!
A good writing book that details much of the way that fiction is traditionally done is “The Key” by James N frey. When I read this book all became much clearer for me, in terms of using mythological motifs that we all recognise, but probably never thought that much about. In this book Frey talks about myth –based fiction and one of the things that happens in the beginning of all these kinds of stories is the hero is called to his journey.  This is just the beginning of a universal plot structure that works for almost every story since Homer. And it applies – in modern terms – to almost all my own writing.
So, do you use the power of myth in your writing? And do your characters go on journeys?

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Inspiration from Mary Muse!

I – Inspiration
What a lovely word inspiration is!
My dictionary tells me inspiration can be ‘a good idea, creative influence or stimulus’. In terms of writing, that definitely fits the bill! But my idea of inspiration is not a flash of insight or a good idea but moments when my dear friend, Mary Muse is sitting on my shoulder.
My friend Mary calls at some odd times and sometimes when I desperately need her, she doesn’t visit at all! But all is not lost, as almost always when I need inspiration, Mary comes calling eventually.
I believe inspiration is actually the end product of lots of subconscious thinking. And although inspiration can suddenly arrive – almost a ‘eureka moment’ – I often realise belatedly, that my brain was working on the problem all the time – albeit in the background. It is moments like these that make me persevere when I have a problem with my plot or the mechanics of writing seem to be going nowhere. It is what makes me come alive and sparkle with enthusiasm at some new idea that has abruptly come to me. It restores my faith that I knew what I was doing all the time (even when, in my heart of hearts, I knew that was not the case).
A frequent quote I have come across a few times in the blogosphere is “all who wander are not lost” and whilst I cannot recall where this comes from, I do know it is certainly true of my own writing. Sometimes I do seem to wander all over the place and even get totally off course with my story but there is always a way to salvage things and that is when my muse is most often helpful as it may even suggest a new direction or a new story line which makes the tale much better and enables me to feel inspired and filled with renewed passion for my writing.
Does your muse visit you at crucial times? Does inspiration come easily to you?

Friday, 10 February 2012

Horror Fiction or Psychological Terror?

H - Horror
“Any horror element is as much psychological as special effects.” Christopher Eccleston

The above quote is probably as true a statement as one is likely to find regarding the finer points of writing horror thrillers, or indeed producing films.
For myself, I believe the psychological effect of the fear which is engendered in the reader, is what makes a horror thriller horrible! And scary…
It is when the everyday things that we are all familiar with turn to something unfamiliar and uncomfortable. It takes lots of real, normal, everyday detail to write good horror fiction – and then the horror comes when something doesn’t quite gel. When ordinary life is infiltrated by the extraordinary or inexplicable, that is when horror happens.

I think that is what makes horror and/or supernatural thriller writing so fascinating and so rewarding. We can (or at least we ought to) generate that psychological effect in the reader – i.e. make he/she feel scared when just one single mundane thing turns into something unexplicable. Stephen King and Dean Koontz are the masters of this style of horror story. Although, that is not to say there is no blood and guts in their stories... Just that they do not rely on the gore and mayhem to make their stories scary.

Blood and guts and so-called ‘slasher’ stories are all well and good - and many people love reading and watching that kind of thing - but they do not make me feel scared. Most of them simply make me wince.
The true horror story for me is the one where the psychological element is elevated to fearful heights; where the tension is ratcheted up to unbearable levels because the reader is waiting with bated breath for the really scary part - made all the more scary because the setting is a normal every day one.  

Of course it is all in the imagination of the reader – or is it?

 So, do you think horror is scarier when it is set in the ordinary, everyday world?

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Scary - or what? Ghosts and Other Entities

G – Ghosts (and other entities)

“Now, about those ghosts... I'm sure they're here and I'm not half so alarmed at meeting up with any of them as I am at having to meet the live nuts I have to see every day.”
Bess Truman

As a writer of paranormal thrillers, the world of the occult fascinates me.  On looking at the dictionary definition of the word occult, I can see that it can mean esoteric knowledge, secretive mystery and supernatural.
To me the world of occult is mainly associated with the supernatural. It can include such things as Extra sensory perception, spirits, special powers, demons and devils, doppelgangers, possession and special powers ( such as telekinesis, telepathy etc). All these things are great fodder for the supernatural thriller writer. However one thing that is uppermost in my mind when I write is that, irrespective of the supernatural elements, the story must still hold together as a well plotted tale with good, believable characters. It must have the elements of a thriller with rising tension, conflict and suspense and a character in jeopardy.
I also do believe that stories centred on the occult world should grip readers and the supernatural element should be unnerving, scary and even a little terrible. Readers of these kinds of stories expect to be transported to an alternate reality where supernatural abound and yet are still pretty scary.
In the readers mind a little voice poses the question, at least for the duration of the story,”could this possibly happen?”
Suspension of disbelief is what keeps horror and supernatural writers going, as well as the enjoyment of heightened sensations if the story scares as much as it should. The fear, I believe comes from the not knowing.
After all, we really don’t know what awaits us in the afterlife and the possibility of spirits, ghosts etc is not that unbelievable to many people. And lots of perfectly rational folk do indeed believe in the Devil and Demons (for that matter many religions do too). I guess it is this notion of belief and the outside possibility of these things actually happening that captures the imagination of so many supernatural thriller readers – including me!


 So, does the occult world scare you? Or are you more scared of the nuts you meet every day?