I must apologize. The last two weeks have been crazy busy with church work, family needs, etc. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get it all done – and this is one of those times. I did manage to get up a new question. That means I’m waiting for new answers, and I did put up a new excerpt from Lori Colbo’s story, Blackbird Has Spoken. It has not been published yet, but I hope this gives you a taste of what lies ahead. It’s a very powerful story. That’s all I’m going to say.
Hopefully next week, I’ll have some more tips to pass on to you. Until then, keep at it.
Is there a difference? – Absolutely, yes, although the two are closely connected. Before I anwser that question in more detail, let me ask you another one. Is it necessary to use both in fiction writing? I suppose not. As the author, you’re free to write anything, anyway you want to. But if only surprise or suspense is used I have to question, how well is the story written?
Now, let’s talk about surprise and suspense, and I think you’ll see why it’s so important to use both.
The use of surprise seems to come out of the blue. The reader is not expecting it. It blindsides him. But the effect is short-lived. He may receive a shot of adrenaline, but the thrill soon passes. Good writing should contain a susrprise here and there to excite the reader.
Suspense, on the other hand, begs the question, what is going to happen next? it’s suspense that keeps the pages turning. Suspense isn’t necessarily surprising, but it builds from the surprise. Consider Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. We know the story well, but if we were reading it for the first time, we might be surprised that a ghost would be part of a Christmas story. As the story progresses, suspense begins to make us wonder who will visit next? What will be the outcome?
What about a story about a serial killer? The surprise may be when the first murder takes place in a passive, rural town. Then we see murders are to be expected. Suspense takes hold when we don’t know who will be next – how, where or when it will happen. The only way to find out is turn another page. After all, that is the goal, isn’t it.
Try surprise and suspense in your stories and see what happens. You just might create a New York Times bestseller.
I often use pictures to get ideas for scenes and/or settings. The above picture is the property of jlgsgirl photography and was specifically taken for use in my book, Dear Ellie. Before I explain the significance of the picture in the story, let me ask you, what kind of story might this image tell? Tell it in your imagination.
Then translate what your imagination is telling you to the written word. Maybe you see a sense of peace. Perhaps you see a lonely bench where happiness and dreams once sat. Could it be a storm is brewing just over the horizon that’s not in view yet? What about the railing? Is it there to prevent a suicide? What might the tree tell us? It could possibly represent shade and protection from an ordeal your character is experiencing. In reality, there may be scores of things this picture could be communicating to our imagination. But it’s your imagination and your story.
The above picture was taken for a specific idea I had while writing Dear Ellie, but you can use pictures to gain ideas from as well. I hope you’ve seen that. I don’t want to break anybody’s bubble, but I don’t believe writer’s block exists. I think it’s also a product of the imagination. Sometimes I need to think about a scene before it’s fully developed in my mind, and I’ve found that browsing through online images often help to break the ice and get the creative juices flowing again.
There are many online image sources. I usually use Google images, but you might also try Pinterest, Pixabay, and a host of others. Let your imagination pore over the images and develop your scene as your muse dictates. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.
Now, back to the picture from Dear Ellie. There were actually two. This one was placed in the beginnig of the book before the first word of chapter appears.
In this picture, Ellie is filled with confusion over circustances in her life. All she sees are trees and weeds that block her thinking. Her reality has become muddied as she comtemplates her life – her life that is to be revealed as the story progresses.
The first picture of the empty bench appears at the end of the book, after the very last word was written. We see she has found another bench looking out over a relatively clear sky with no obstructions – but she is gone. The story tells of a life of pain reconciled with the acceptance of reality. The storm has passed, and she moves on.
Even though the two bench photos were taken to fit the story, so often it works the other way around for me. I see a scene first with my eyes and then translate it to my imagination. The final product exists when I translate it from my imagination to the written word. Give it a try. It just may be what you need to block writer’s block.
We live in a world where sometimes education is placed on a pedistal. Education is not the answer to everything, but nevertheless it is true that the more we know about a subject, the better prepared we are to apply that knowledge to our lives.
Writing is one of those areas. As a writer, our education should never end. There is always something new we can learn to help us improve and reach our goals as a wordsmith. You can always pick one of my in-depth writing courses from the resource page, but I want to give you a link to some free, short courses from Reedsy Learning. You can choose from scores of courses (all free) that cover the five main areas of self-publishing – writing, editing, publishing, distribution, and marketing.
The courses are easy to understand and apply. I’ve taken several of them and found them to be useful. Although the courses are very basic, there is much information you can work into your writing and publishing. I don’t get a cent for this endorsement. I just thought you might be interested so I’m passing it on. Just click here, and you’re on your way to a continuing education in the art of word creation.
Have you ever noticed how keeping secrets or telling secrets sometimes get the best of people. Everyone loves to receive privileged information, and many times we love giving it away. So take advantage of our tendecy to be curious. Give your character a secret to keep or to divulge against his/her better judgment.
What will happen if Sue’s boss suspects she is falling in love with him? What about a teen-ager who joins a gang? How will his poor mother feel if she finds out? How does he keep her from finding out?
Secrets are great for causing suspense, and they can add another dimension to your character. How will your character hide his secret? What will be the fallout if he is found out?
Will giving your character a secret fear or desire broaden the story? Was there something degrading or shameful in his/her past that they choose to hide? Is there an aspect of their lives they want to keep a secret. Do they pretend to be someone they’re not?
He/She is your character. Build him/her any way you want. Give him/her a secret that will blow your readers away. Just go it!