Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Supernatural Story World

As a writer of paranormal thrillers, the world of the occult fascinates me.  On looking at the dictionary definition of the word 'occult', I see it can mean 'esoteric knowledge', 'secretive mystery' and/or the '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 themes/plots 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 reader's minds 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 can you suspend disbelief to read a supernatural thriller?


Friday, 21 June 2013

How to make a thriller really matter

How to make a thriller really matter.

In my humble opinion, all the steps in creating a plausible plot in thriller writing should come from the premise of an antagonist (villain) wanting one thing and a protagonist (hero) wanting the direct opposite. This creates the basic conflict that will drive the story to its final climactic end. Layered in and around this conflict may be more subplots and story lines that enrich the central story. In other words the story is multi-layered and thick with intrigue and suspense. It is this potent mixture of forces set one against the other that is the engine behind any thriller story.

The stakes in a thriller must also be very high so menace and threat are around every corner. Of course, the greatest threat (and the one many successful stories have thrived on) is world domination or a catastrophic event that threatens the entire world. For example ‘War of the Worlds’, ‘Alien’ and various James Bond’s epics. Plotting a novel like this may start fairly worryingly but then the plot should rise to epic proportions and stakes go higher and higher as more danger is piled on and more people realise the gravity of the situation and a race against time.
But it doesn’t always have to be about threats to the entire world - it may simply be threats to a main character’s nearest and dearest! And, in my opinion, the best way to raise the stakes is for the reader to strongly identify with the characters in peril and thereby worry for their safety. So the plot cannot be all about action and suspense - character development and engendering empathy is integral to the plot too. Put together it should make for one heck of a thriller…
Do you try to raise the stakes as high as possible in your stories?

Monday, 17 June 2013

Dramatic Disasters and Deadly Diseases

Natural disasters - and man-made ones - make for brilliant thriller reads, I find. The age-old ‘race against time’ to save innocent lives and – occasionally - the whole human race is the ultimate in ‘edge of the seat’ drama if done well.
Some of the best stories I have come across in the genre of thrillers, involve the use of the word ‘epidemic’. To most people this word is scary as it is the world of science gone wrong and nasty things happening to unsuspecting people. But I suspect the scary part is more about our lack of control over such tiny (usually unseen) microorganisms that can and do kill us indiscriminately.
We can easily imagine catching a nasty disease and the thought that something can spread like wildfire and wipe out an entire population – well, we know in our heart of hearts that it could just happen…To add to the tension and drama there is usually a time element to these stories and so it is not so difficult to build in a page turning tension. A sceptic (often a politician) who does not take the threat seriously is generally built in to provide the opposition to the main character and - voila – a readymade thriller plot! I don’t mean to sound as if this is so easy but there is definitely a theme to these stories, and we all know it, but it doesn’t seem to stop readers wanting these kinds of stories.
I love these books and I have used the motif in my own novels a little. My latest thriller - The Afterlife of Darkmares - does have a plot strand where a type of plague is released into a small community.

Have you considered using an epidemic or disaster ( or the threat of one) to heighten tension and create extra conflict? Have you read a great book/story using an epidemic/disaster?


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Macabre - A Nice Word??

What a scary word macabre is to most people…
The dictionary defines 'Macabre' as ghastly or gruesome but in my mind, I always associate it with supernatural goings on. Books such as Stephen King’s “Danse Macabre” also spring to mind.  In his book King talks about the world of horror writing and it’s history and origins – an adventurous read if you are interested in horror literature. When I looked up the term ‘Danse Macabre’, I discovered that it appears to originate in medieval times and signified skeletons and other dead spirits dancing and leading mortals to their grave. A kind of unholy procession. There are quite a few artists’ impressions from that time depicting dancing gleeful skeletons holding hands with the dead and the still living.  Ugh! Nice pictures…
But I am thinking of the more common use of the word nowadays.  Macabre seems to be a word used for describing a grim or ghastly atmosphere.  It is generally only found in horror/paranormal -type literature. I think it is a wonderfully descriptive word which everyone knows the meaning of but it is rarely used in everyday conversation.
It’s almost as if it is beyond our understanding and therefore terrifying.  When one is struggling to describe a scary atmosphere or aura macabre is a good word to use…
Do you have favourite words that are relevant to your genre?

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Promise of Premise

So what exactly is a premise?

Ta Da! I have a dictionary definition to hand…“Logic proposition from which inference is drawn” Mmmm… Are we much the wiser?

The point of the premise in fiction is that it truly is a kind of road map of where the story should go -and where it definitely should not! When I first started writing I did not understand this concept properly and, I must admit, I do still sometimes struggle with defining it for some of my story ideas. But when I get it right it really is as if a cloud clears and my ideas begin to coalesce properly in my mind. Sticking to my premise makes me keep to the point of the story all the way through instead of veering off at tangents and getting lost. When I wrote my first stories I did not plan - just went with the flow of a good story idea. But before I had gotten very far my story idea started changing as I stumbled upon new and fascinating stuff for my character to get into… I ended up in a hopeless mess with no idea of how to straighten it all out. Then I suddenly remembered the original story idea and realised I had unintentionally abandoned it.  (If you are a ‘seat of your pants’ kind of writer a premise of some kind is, I think, essential.  But maybe you can stay nicely on course without one.)
Anyway then I read a few books and realised that premise was what I was missing. It is not the plot of a story but the main point and leads directly from the main story question to the resolution at the end. James Frey describes it as “A statement of what happens to the characters as a result of the core conflict in the story.” For example: In Dickens’ Christmas Carol the premise would be – ‘looking and learning from past mistakes leads to redemption and forgiveness’ because in the end, of course, Scrooge is a changed character. In my latest book ‘The Afterlife of Darkmares’,  the premise I used was ‘mother love can overcome everything, even ‘other worldly’ threats. ‘

Adding subplots and other characters does not change this central theme of the story because the thread running through and holding it all together is premise which once promised must be delivered on at the end.
This is just how I try and stay on track.

Having said all that maybe you know a better way to keep to the central story line?


Thursday, 6 June 2013

To all my followers - if any are left!??.
So sorry to be absent for so long. I have had to relocate from one country to another and had no internet for some time - also family illness has been an issue too. BUT - I'm just about sorted and settled but it's been a long haul!
So here I am and I'm looking forward to getting back into blogland again. And it'll be great to catch up with reading all the blogs and finding out what you've all been doing...
Happy writing everyone!