Thursday, April 30, 2009
Since I didn’t get a chance to post the Writing Wednesday that I wanted to yesterday, I thought it would be great fun to talk about it today.
Suspense is the underlying emotion in any great thriller. Creating that suspense is not always easy in our writing. Often foreshadowing is crafted to be plot specific only—when it’s the emotional foreshadowing that is the most subtle and has the most impact.
In DFF: Dead Friends Forever, Kaylee’s relationships with the people in her life is every bit as important as the elements concerning the mystery of Isabelle’s death and how the ghost came to haunt Larson house. Yet when reading this “every day world” Kaylee lives in is seen less as foreshadowing and more simply as the time before the horror begins.
Looking at all the great horror classics, we can see that emotional foreshadowing. In Bram Stokers Dracula, we see Mina’s love for Jonathan Harker and how much she misses him as he travels abroad for his work, how her love for him sustains her while her friend Lucy courts one prospective suitor after another. It is later the challenges to this love that make her enchantment with Dracula all the more heartbreaking. Does she choose the sunshine love of her living life? Or will she choose the moonlight love of her afterlife? Without Harker, Mina’s choice wouldn’t be so heartbreaking.
Writing suspense can be difficult. This is why there is so much emphasis placed on the “hero’s journey” in writing programs. Not because knowing where a character is going on the map is important, but because setting up the emotional bonds early in a story will give the later threats to those bonds all the more meaning—and make the reader feel the full scope of that characters obstacles, sorrows and triumphs.
Look at your characters. Who and what is important to them? Does your story challenge that bond? If it doesn’t, you may want to consider raising the stakes. The higher the stakes, the more emotional and thus intense the read will be.
What is a favorite emotional story you’ve read or seen in a movie? Why was it so emotional to you? Share this in the comments so we might learn from each of our experiences how these emotional stakes are applied, if you like :)