Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Writing believable suspense--Lenora Worth

Hello. On one of my many writer loops, someone brought up a question about how we write suspense. In our books, we usually have a woman in jeopardy and a strong hero to help her get out of jeopardy, or we have someone she loves in danger and a strong hero to help her with that, too. Have you noticed not matter the danger, there is always a strong hero around? I love that part. Sigh. But let's not rule out our heroine. She, too, has to be strong and brave and willing to take matters into her own hands to survive. We try not to write those "dumber than dirt" characters who go into dark rooms in big, creepy houses without a flashlight, baseball bat or gun. Duh!
Too stupid to live. We try to make our heroines smart, sharp and working with a purposeful intent to catch the bad guys or clear her good name or to find the evidence that will bring down the corrupt people trying to ruin her life. See what fun we have. I compare this to going on a thrill ride. It's fun all the way!

Which brings me to the other part of this topic. What have you done in your own life that required you to be brave and sensible. I have a story that I promised to share about what happened to me one night long ago when we lived in Atlanta, GA. My husband worked at GM at night so my daughter and I were usually alone a lot. I can't remember why I was taking a late shower that night, but anyway, I got out of the shower and got dressed (thank goodness). Then I heard a noise downstairs in the kitchen of our townhouse. Of course, I got scared. My heart started racing and I immediately felt a fierce need to protect my sleeping child. Grabbing the first thing I could find--a large umbrella with a pointed tip, I headed downstairs (where the phone was also located in the kitchen, so no help there.) I could hear all sorts of noises. Someone was rummaging through my kitchen! The kitchen was a tiny efficiency so I had to go into the dining room and then turn into the kitchen to face the intruder. On the way, I checked the front door and windows. Nothing out of the ordinary there. The back door to the patio was also secure. How did they get in?
Saying a prayer, I decided I'd ambush them. I charged into the kitchen, prepared to stab them with the umbrella. Only to find a tiny mouse digging through the garbage can! Who knew a mouse could make such awful noise. I got the broom, opened the door to the patio and managed to run the mouse out of the house with a "Get out of here, you rodent!" That's just one example of the suspense in my own life. Anyone else had a scary experience that turned out to be nothing much?


Debby Giusti said...

Hi Lenora,
I know you were terrified!!! Even if it was only a mouse!

I had an experiece in Germany. My hubby was in the field and the children were asleep. I was reading in bed. I heard our outer door open and close and footsteps headed for the hallway where the bedrooms were located. I managed to close the door to the living room and stood in the hallway, screaming for the lady who lived upstairs. (We were in a 4-family building.) I was praying, pounding on the wall and screaming for her to call the MPs. My daughter, a second-grader, awoke and started to call the cops when I heard a small voice on the other side of the door say, "Mama?"

My son had been sleep walking and had gone out of the house for a moment. I heard him as he returned inside. Of course, I thought it was an intruder.

Whew!!! I can still remember how hard my heart was beating!!! :)

Lenora said...

Debby, how scary. And your poor son must have been scared, too!

There is nothing more frightening than those things that go bump in the night!

Lenora :)

Jill Kemerer said...

Mice--yuck! I probably would have freaked out!

And don't you love those strong heroes? Always ready to rescue our capable heroines. Sigh. Love 'em!

Ramona Richards said...

Oooh, I'd already schedule my post for tomorrow before I read this. I definitely had heroes on my mind today...

Debby/Lenora, I LOVE your stories. Great suspense, and perfect false alarms, which would cute set-ups for a bigger scare.

My worst fright was coming home to find a cop car in my drive. I couldn't see my husband's van, and I went into an immediate panic. I parked on the street and ran to the back of the house, where his van was sitting calmly.

He was OK, and furious that we'd been burglarized. I was so relieved he was alive, a few missing electronics came as a huge relief.

Lynette Eason said...

Oh wow, a mouse. Ick. I can imagine your fright, though. One night when my husband was out of town, (of course), our ADT alarm started blaring in the middle of the night. I couldn't hear a thing over that awful sound. I grabbed a kitchen knife and went hunting for whoever was in my house. I had an 18 month old and a 2 1/2 year old to protect. The cops got there pretty quick and with guns drawn, checked our basement where it looked like someone MAY have tried to get in. Still not sure on that one.

I think the alarm just went haywire.

But it was still scary. I don't think I slept well for a year after that one. Especially not when my husband as gone.

I remember that scared feeling well and often use those emotions in my


Margaret Daley said...

A mouse. EEK!

Now that would have scared me. At school one ran across my classroom and I stood on a chair.


Lenora said...

So, none of us like mice! I grew up on a farm and mice were very common in our old house, especially when my daddy would do a controlled burn on the fields. They'd come to visit a lot during that time. We had lots of cats around as bouncers, however. But I'll take a mouse anyday over a real live person trying to break in. (I think!)

Lenora :)