Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Threatening prose

My favorite books are those with suspense and action. I regularly OD on John Sandford, John D. MacDonald, Jonathon Kellerman, J.A. Jance and a host of other authers. Inspired, I sit down to write my own action suspense and guess what?

The suspense and action fizzle and die. I know there's a real art to stringing out the suspense and choreographing the action. What exactly is it?

I confess I don't know. I suspect I'm in too much of a hurry to get to the resolution. I want the good guys to win. Now.

They can't do that if I drag out the action! So instead of having a long fight scene like you see in one of those chop suey fight films, my fight scene is more like those old slow-mo fight scenes in the first Kung Fu television series. By the third kick, my good guy has vanquished all the bad guys. C'est la guerre.

As for the suspense thing...I can't seem to keep a secret. Instead of doling out the clues a bit at a time, I dump them down by the handful in every scene so that by the time I've reached the middle of the book, I have no more clues to dole out.

So...what is the secret? How do other writers craft that perfect suspense and action over the entire length of the book until the chilling denouement at the end?

I'm seeking the secret of writing threatening prose. What are your ideas?



  1. Limited 3rd person POV. If your POV character doesn't know much, you're not allowed to reveal it. You pretty much have to stick to just one or two POV characters.

  2. Excellent comment, Elissa! Also, try playing it out in your head like a movie, and think what would look cool and delay the outcome.

  3. Hmmm...I see you as threatening in any thing....

  4. I'm not good at it either, Anny. Maybe I'm too impatient.

  5. I try for sequence. With each conflict, I shoot for let it almost resolve then throw a kink in, so they have to start over and maybe they manage it the next time or get one step closer.
    Love the pic:)

  6. The trick I've found for threatening prose is actually nonchalance. Sure, if a villain is red faced and screaming at you, it can be stressful, but for me, the real threat is in someone who can calmly meet your eyes after committing grizzly murder and smile. The most threatening people I know are the ones who don't tell you what they're going to do to you. I've found that the reaction of people around them is sometimes a better tool than the antagonist's words.

  7. Hah. Didn't think about that, Anna! And you're absolutely correct!