How to create suspense in your horror novels

Suspense is an important element in many genres. For sure, thrillers and mysteries need it just as horror novels do. But, if you give it some thought, you’ll see that suspense seeps also into many others genres. Maybe only for a scene or two, but it’s there nonetheless. So if you’re serious about writing, handling it effectively from the get go is as necessary as it is a thorough knowledge of grammar–even if you’re going to break some rules now and then. What is Suspense? According to the Online Oxford Dictionary, in literature suspense is a quality in a work of…

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Reluctant heroes and literary tropes

Reading is an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s therefore only natural that scientists and philosophers have tried to explain why we read and why we draw such a deep pleasure from it. Some explanations make more sense than others. But in general it seems science still has to cover some distance before it can give us a complete and working explanation of why when our brain is on books it works the way it does. That said, while I appreciate knowing about the inner workings of my mind, I’m pretty sure one of the reasons I love reading is that when I…

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Story development — the importance of a character’s name

Except for parents who are about to name their child, and therefore consider names incredibly important, in general we take first names for granted. You know what I mean. Joe is the mechanic. Edward the lawyer. Elise the soccer mum. Brenda the speech therapist. Names are just convenient labels to refer to people. Only occasionally names make us pause and think about what they might mean to their owners. And when this happens is usually because of some horrible name someone has been given. However, according to some psychologists names have a measurable effect on people. For example, names immediately…

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Character tags – how to make your characters more memorable

I must admit it from the very start. Unless the physical description has some bearing on the story, I don’t particularly care about such things like the color of a character’s eyes, her complexion, her height or whatever else. I don’t care if the heroine has a shock of curly black hair or her head is instead as hairless as the ass of a two year infant. As a result, also when I write I tend to keep descriptions as short and functional as possible to the story I’m telling. I’m not alone in this. Les Edgerton, the author of Hooked,…

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The unreliable narrator: definition and uses in literature

Literature offers writers and readers alike the opportunity to experiment with things that in real life usually lead to a series of unpleasant consequences. No, I’m not speaking of explosives wired to fast-ticking timers, of psychopaths on a killing spree, or of alien hordes devastating our already half devastated world–not necessarily at least. What I’m speaking of here has to do with the well known literary trope of the narrator, or rather, the unreliable narrator. This might look like a literary device of secondary importance, especially considering the gazillion super explosive things that authors can cook up in a book. However, the…

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Describing characters in fiction – literary techniques

In a previous post about memorable characters in fiction I wrote that writers must offer their readers many occasions to get to know the characters populating their stories. In fact, just as in real life the more we know about someone the more intense our feelings can grow for that person, the same happens in a novel. However, given that any work of literature, even the lengthiest one, is always an heavily edited and condensed version of reality, we must choose with care which scenes to include in our stories and which are instead better left out. For example, if…

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Creative writing advice – never explain too much

In chess they say you have to follow just three rules to play like a Grandmaster.  You have to play carefully, carefully, carefully. Something similar holds true when it comes to creative writing advice. Only, it’s something you have to avoid doing rather than the other way around. Namely, you should never explain too much. Yes, you read it right. Never, ever, explain too much. At first blush, this might look like a fairly banal mistake. Yet it isn’t only beginning writers who tend to explain too much. Now and then also more experienced writers make this mistake. Writers who…

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How to use stereotypes in books – writing myths debunked

Stereotypes in books… Shouldn’t they be like the kiss of death for the story you want to tell? Well, not necessarily. First of all, let’s consider what a stereotype is according to the Oxford Dictionary: a widely held but fixed and oversimplified idea of a particular type of person, group of people, or thing. In this definition the adjectives “fixed” and “oversimplified” are the ones that make any serious beginning writer consider stereotypes in books with diffidence, to say the least. Besides, in the past, some psychologists believed stereotypes were used exclusively by people particularly rigid, repressed, and authoritarian–the exact opposite…

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Backstory for characters – how to exploit it in fiction

Backstory is a history or background created for fictional characters in a film, television program, or a novel. Backstory for characters is therefore an essential part of any novel. Even those written with a minimalist style–like it is the case for Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates. Instead, in short stories the approach to backstory can vary notably—mostly depending on the length of the short story itself. In some cases we have almost no backstory–for example because, like in Sentry by Fredric Brown, it helps create the final twist. In other cases instead backstory is used unabashedly because it is necessary to the…

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