Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Creepy or what? Xenophobia?

Fear of strangers or aliens is the dictionary definition of this word! And what a fabulous word it is to use when writing thrillers. I think it could almost be a spark for a damn good plot just on it’s own…

Fear, whichever way you use it has been the engine for many a good thriller story. And it never matters whether the fear is real or imagined. If it is what the character feels then it is ‘real’. In fact, all the phobias are rich pickings for thriller writers. I can think of many stories where you never really know whether the character’s fear is justified or not until well into the tale or even at the absolute end.

What it actually means is that fear is an overwhelming emotion that we all recognise and indentify with. Who hasn’t imagined all sorts of creepy things when alone in the dark? And phobic fear is just as powerful to the person who suffers it. The outcome for both types of fear in a story is good old fashioned suspense! It is the stuff that keeps people turning the pages and biting their nails! And of course it is Halloween this week and what better time to get the brain cells going and turning our innate human fear of the unknown into a story.
And keeping readers guessing is never a bad thing...

So do you have a phobic-type fear? Do you use it in your writing?


Sunday, 26 October 2014


Pam Fish (Chairman of NAWG) and I had a lovely sociable day at New Writers UK book fair day in Nottingham yesterday. We manned a promotions table for National Association of Writers Groups (NAWG) which was viewed with lots of interest by the general public who were very interested in what we had to offer.

We met some lovely folk and had a very interesting day, networking with like-minded people.

Stop Press - NAWG's Open Writing competition is still open for entries - see website.

NAWG has recently started a publication arm and one of our first books is "Boosting your self confidence as a writer" by Steve Bowkett (available from www.nawg.co.uk) We sold quite a few copies of this wonderfully inspiring book at the book fair which was good news for our organisation.

National Association of Writing Groups
Welcomes all writers (whether in a group or not) but obviously we especially welcome writing groups. Please see website for joining details.
Our  groups and associates receive LINK magazine free (6 issues per year) with their membership. The magazine features news, articles and fiction (submitted by members) with other items of interest to writers of all persuasion. We also have lots of free competitions ( to members) and open competitions for all to enter. We also run a very well supported and informative writing festival each year at the beginning of September. Our festival is a two/three day event with well known speakers and  professional writers leading innovative workshops. Its also a chance to network and get to know other writers in a friendly fun atmosphere.

So what are you waiting for? Come and join us and you will be warmly welcomed.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Writing Thriller Chillers - 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  Irealised 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?

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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... Or do you? But I digress…
Back to the 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?

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Conflict - Life blood for Stories

When I finally understood how important this concept we my stories took on a new life of their own. 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 and interesting fact, 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 person with plenty of other stuff that needs doing. It’s why life stories are so boring – unless you’re famous or have done something outstanding with your life. Sorry, 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. 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 cope with it!
And 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?

Friday, 3 October 2014

Wickedly wicked...


Wicked! Now there's a word!
I just love that word. It conjures up images of witches and wizards for me and I always think of Ray Bradbury‘s brilliant novel “Something wicked this way comes”. He took his inspiration from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, of course.
Nowadays it is used by young people as a replacement for the word ‘brilliant’ or something similar. It is also associated with the word ‘cool’ – as in something or someone being ‘hip’ or current. Whoever said language was not a living breathing changeable entity!

Anyway, I digress. What I mean to talk about is the original proper use of the word. When I looked it up in my dictionary it said it meant evil or sinful. But then there was a whole host of harsh words from ‘abominable’ to ‘abased’ to ‘shameful’ and ‘vicious’. In fact over fifty similar words! Many of which I have used time and again in my own supernatural thriller writing.

But nothing says something evil quite as succinctly as ‘wicked’. It goes best with villainous characters and horrific deeds. A good word like this can be as helpful in horror/thriller writing as love is in romance writing. But it can equally be much overused and abused. At this particular time of year - this post seems particularly pertinent - especially if you are a thriller writer - Happy Halloween everyone!

So do you have favourite words that you feel inclined to use more often than not?