Friday, 29 June 2012

Killer Thrillers

 Killer Thrillers
Murder, the TV and film industry would have us believe, is common and frequented by dastardly criminal types and . The truth, happily, is that in real life, it is not as frequent as it might seem. As we all know, murderers inhabit the pages of whodunits and mystery novels like the opening night of a big screen blockbuster! The best example in English TV is the small quiet leafy village of Midsommer where murders – usually more than one - happen every week! The focus of these plots is the hero/heroine (usually a clever detective) who solves the murder and catches the killer.
In thrillers, unlike mystery and ‘whodunit’s’, a murder is often not the main plot line. But a killing will often serve to raise the stakes for the hero/heroine i.e. a woman desperate to save her child (and the rest of the world maybe) has to accept the kidnappers mean business when another child is found murdered. In a race against time, Killings along the way may be viewed as acceptable losses. Some murders are even inconsequential – strange though it may seem. For instance the multitude of deaths in war stories, blockbuster disasters and action movies.
The best thrillers, though, often have a murder somewhere in them, even if it is only a bit player (e.g. The Da Vinci Code and other search/quest thrillers). A murder lifts the story from ‘so so’ to an elevated level where more important characters are under threat. The tension and anxiety for the reader thus ratchets up a level. This, of course, is where thrillers come into their own for they are all about rising tension and cliff hangers at a mile a minute speed.
In one of my books (The Witcheye Gene) the killing actually starts in the prologue - another familiar way to show the true nature of what the hero is up against.
So do you need to show the actual murder in graphic detail or not? Depends is my answer – if we want the reader to feel worried or scared for the hero then yes. But maybe a few choice details will suffice rather than a blow by blow account. I also think it is more about showing what kind of person the protagonist is (and how his character connects to the story) than the actual deed.  However no one is truly all evil – except maybe the devil himself - so a fully rounded villain also needs some redeeming qualities. Many of the best known villains murder ruthlessly and without compunction yet they love their mother/animals/children! In fact, I believe it is these very human traits mixed with the very worst traits that fascinate us so much. And that is why the best known fictional villains/murderers stay with us for a long time. They could so easily have been just like us!
Murder for murder’s sake should never be introduced into a story just to spice it up but a well placed, well developed villain/protagonist who murders,horrifies us and that can certainly rev a tale up into top gear!
Who is your favourite murderer/villain in the most well known fiction?


Monday, 25 June 2012

Life Blood for fiction - Conflict


When I started writing fiction I did not fully understand the concept of conflict. My writing seemed dull and lifeless! I read James N Frey's books on writing and irealised what was missing. It was a eureka moment! A lightbulb flashed on and I finally understood how important conflict was. I was putting a little trouble in my stories but not enough to make readers worry or care about my characters. But when I grasped the concept properly my stories took on a life of their own as I infused them with MUCHO  TROUBLE!
I used to worry that too much conflict was not a good thing. That everyday people never (unless they were really unfortunate!) have to cope with the amount of conflict that there necessarily is in fiction. But then I realised fiction is NOT everyday life. It is made up and for the most part everyday life, for many of us, is pretty boring. Not something a reader wants to invest many hours in – especially if you are a busy kind of person with plenty of other stuff that needs doing. It’s why life stories, I think, are so boring – unless you’re famous or have done something outstanding with your life. And that doesn’t include the day you got involved with a row at your local supermarket!
Anyway, back to conflict. One look at the soaps and how they are written is enough to confirm we are not talking real life really (sorry!) We all know that but it doesn’t stop us watching and enjoying seeing other people tussle with the agonising mess they make. It’s how they cope and overcome their problems that fascinate us. So it is with conflict in novels. You have to make trouble, fling it at them and then make it worse! Finally you throw the kitchen sink at them and almost see them go down and succumb… And then… Then we see them come to terms, rise up and overcome the conflict and obstacles we have created. Ah…. Not so boring, eh?
We have to connect with our characters and see them as real people but the conflict they face does not have to be normal conflict. In fact if we raise the stakes the conflict should escalate to unbearable heights and we are on the edge of our seats wondering how on earth they are going to win through with it all!
So that states my case for more and more conflict to give your stories the life they deserve!
Do you put lots of conflict in your stories? Do you sometimes worry that you are over the top?

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Mirrror, mirror...

Mirror, mirror on the Wall…
Mirrors have always fascinated me a little for there is often a discrepancy between what I think I am/look like and what I see in the mirror. It’s a little like hearing your own voice recorded and swearing that you don’t really sound like that – do you???
But I digress. Back to mirrors.
I actually used mirrors as a horror element in my first full novel “Insight”. I was in the bathroom one day and looked up to see the mirror so clouded with steam that you couldn’t see anything clearly and I started imagining a creature was in the mirror. Yes, I know I do have a peculiar mindset… But anyway it gave me the idea of using a mirror for a ghostly experience. I also realised that you could write with a greasy-ish finger on a mirror and it could not be seen but as soon as it became steamed up the writing appeared. Oh, I had fun with that book! Water and mist eventually became a major motif for the story as the character had a kind of phobia about water anyway. The possibilities really opened up then as the fear went right back to her childhood and… Well you’d have to read the book to know the rest! No spoilers on here…
But it did make me realise you could take something quite mundane and turn it into something – well, a lot less mundane!
Have you ever thought of using ordinary household items and turning them into fearful phobic elements in a thriller story?

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Introducing Bloglights Highlights!

Ta! Da! I’m introducing a new weekly item to my blog!

I aim to make lots of lovely links to all of you - my blogging friends. Well, eventually I will get to all of you…
So, in the spotlight (oops, sorry, BLOGLIGHT) this week are:
Talli Roland– Talli was one of the first bloggers I followed and I have been reading her entertaining and informative blog ever since. Her latest book Construct a Couple is out now and I am pleased to say I am reading and enjoying it immensely even though it’s not my usual genre! Talli is also very conscientious about returning visits
Peggy Eddleman – Peggy’s blog ‘Will Write for cookies is also a favourite. I just love the delicious pictures of sweet, fabulous cookies. And I love her writerly quotes too – they always seem to resonate for me.
Clarissa Draper – Clarrssa’s blog is informative and full of interesting questions and competitions. Well worth a visit. Her blog is called ‘Listening to the voices’ and she certainly does!
 Maeve Frazier– I just adore the title of Maeve’s blog! ‘Lollipop’s cottage’. It is an absolute delight to click onto. She reviews and writes mostly for children and usually has some scrumptious recipes to try out.
Do give these lovely peeps a go.  You won’t regret it…

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Intriguing Thrillers and Scary Chillers


Misty or ghostly intrigue??
I just love this word. It conjures up a misty twilight kind of world for me as I associate it with mystery and skulduggery. Almost a Sherlock Holmes-kind of world in my mind…
Maybe that is why I tend to think of it as a kind of old fashioned word which is rather less used nowadays. It suggests a halfway stage between outright puzzling questions and curious, rather vague, passing fascination with something or other.
When I looked ‘intrigue’ up in the dictionary, I found it can in fact mean a puzzle or questionable scheme. But interestingly it can also mean conspiracy, double dealing, trickery and even, of course an affair. An old fashioned affair/liaison was often called an intrigue.
I think the word could also be used when referring to the questions that a writer poses at the beginning of a stroy to get the reader hooked into the tale. In writing thrillers it is unquestionably the raising of interesting questions and mini puzzles of the ‘will he/won’t he succeed’ variety that make up the entire plot of an 'edge of your seat' thriller. In other words the story must intrigue the reader from start to finish and that intrigue should rise to full on tension as the conflicts escalate and the hero get’s into worse and worse trouble.
So when I write my thrillers, I start with some intriguing questions (enough to pique reader interest, I hope) and pose some attention-grabbing dilemmas but then things get rough!
A good dollop of skulduggery helps as does some trickery on the part of the villain. Together with a large spoonful of double dealing and a splash of romance you have the recipe for a darned good roller coaster read.

Do you use the word 'intrigue' in your writing? Are you often in a state of intrigue when reading?

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Afterlife of Darkmares - kindle edition.

Yay and Ta Da!!! My new book is now in kindle form!
The Afterlife of Darkmares is a supernatural thriller set partly in 16th century England and partly in contemporary modern life.  Here is the back cover blurb:

When single mum Kate Linden’s disabled daughter dies unexpectedly she is stunned to find she is under suspicion of harming her. But Kate still has a 12year old son, Grif, who refuses to speak and is grappling with issues of his own – not least of which is his attachment to a supposedly imaginary friend. Kate’s relationship with her son is fraught as she struggles to make some kind of connection with him and also deal with her own intense grief.
Unbeknown to Kate, in 1665, a disastrous event - the plague - in a small Derbyshire village - has consequences that stretch into the 21st Century and she is blind to the fact that her son (feeling estranged from all around him) has unwittingly allowed an evil entity to awaken and threaten them all.
 Kate must now fight her own demons and accept help from unlikely sources if she is to save her son from a fate worse than death. The help finally comes from a sleep therapist, an elderly bereaved lady and Jeremiah, an old man who hovers between life and death on a life support machine…

Please forgive my plug - I don't usually push my books on here other than mentioning them from time to time...
So if you feel like reading something a little different give it a go!!

Also availble on kindle is my book "The Witcheye Gene".

So there you have - it my offerings plugged!! Hope no one is offended?

Do you plug your books regularly on your blog or only when they are first out?

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Bomb Under the Table

I think I enjoy plotting and writing thrillers because I love reading a book that grips me from beginning to end with the ‘will he /won’t he succeed’ motif and the feeling that disaster is around every corner. Following the protagonist as he battles against what seem like unsurmountable odds and wondering if he could ever succeed in his ultimate goal... The dictionary defines supense as a state of uncertainty and this is certainly what is at the heart of all thriller stories. But the supense has to be maintained and in the case of a full length novel that can be difficult. This is why we have cliches about page turners and cliff edge endings - especially at the end of chapters. It is the delicate art of suspense.
Keeping readers on the proverbial edges of their seats is what I always aim for but I know this type of book is not to everyone’s taste but for me it is the bedrock of good story telling.
One of the best proponents of the art of suspense was Alfred Hitchcock and I seem to recall reading somewhere that he said one of the greatest ways to create really good suspense was to put a bomb under a table where people, unbeknowingly, are playing a dull game of cards. The audience of course would know the bomb was there and ticking but the players would not. What unbearable suspense for the audience!
Suspense in thrillers, in my humble opinion, is the key to success. A rising tension with lots of problems and conflict that the main character has to contend with is what keeps a reader guessing. But most of all it keeps the reader reading! A bomb under the table doesn’t hurt either!

Do you try to create bombs/shocks that put the reader into a state of uncertainty for the whole length of the story?

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Afterlife of Darkmares

Nightmares, Darkmares and Demons
What a wonderful, fascinating  place the world of dreams appears to be. But an even more extraordinary place is the world of nightmares.
For the stuff of nightmares - or night terrors, as they are often called in children - is where many horror/supernatural stories appear to emanate from.  Of course, the scientists amongst us know perfectly well that nightmares or bad dreams are simply the subconscious mind making sense of scary, worrying things that happen to us. They are no more a precursor of bad things to come nor an evil sign of impending doom than dreams about fairies or paradise are harbingers of marvellous happenings. Ah, but here’s the rub – no one can actually prove that and so the workings of the subconscious mind remain a wonderful fertile ground for paranormal thrillers.
Nightmares in and of themselves are basically bad dreams that often can and do cause much distress. But the nightmare has it’s origins in folklore. The night part is easily explained but what of the other word mare? What is that? In Norway the Mare is a female shape shifter who can take the form of an animal or dwarf and who can change into a wind that can slip through windows and keyholes to get to intended victims whilst they are sleeping. By day the Mare is a normal woman but at night the urge to find and control victims is strong. The Mare enters a person’s bedroom and sits on their chests, causing tightness, troubled breathing and horrible dreams. In American folklore this Mare spirit eventually became the nightmare of which we are all familiar.
For myself, I used this motif in my latest book but called the nightmare a ‘darkmare’ as the character was not only troubled at nighttime.  My book - "The Afterlife of Darkmares" by PJ Newcombe - is now available from
Have you ever used folklore/mythology to garnish or deepen your stories? Have you ever used nightmares as a major part of your story?