Inspiration by Andrew Cairns

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Black Magic Inspiration

The continent of Africa abounds with stories of black magic and witchcraft. Unlike in Western culture where witch stories have mostly been shelved along with fairy-stories or history, in Africa such tales remain an integral part of the various cultures and belief-systems.

I found my inspiration for writing The Witch’s List Trilogy through travels in Africa, meeting people who still have strong beliefs in witchcraft and black magic, and listening to some of their incredible stories. I also try to draw from some of my own experiences and use my imagination to think about how things might have worked out differently, if I’d made different decisions at certain points in my life.

I first encountered black magic on a visit to the Ivory Coast, where I was introduced to the notion of a mysterious list maintained by a witch of obscure identity: if your name is on the list, so they believe, it means you’re going to die. As a sceptic European, I was rather surprised how seriously people took this witch’s list, even Ivorians like my wife at the time, who’d lived most of her life in France. When someone fell ill in the village people would whisper, “Perhaps she’s on the witch’s list?” Fingers were pointed at this person or that, suspected of being in league with the witch, of adding someone’s name to the list or even of being the witch. If someone received some unexpected money or success, they might be accused of having obtained such good fortune by being in league with the witch.

So that was my main inspiration for writing the first novel, and when I began writing it, I thought it would be interesting to integrate a coming-of-age tale about a naive young Scot who gets drawn into this web of black magic. Ideas for writing the trilogy came to me: to use three phases in the main character’s life as parts in the trilogy – adolescence / the beginnings of adulthood; adulthood / marriage; and children / growing old. I also wanted to look at some of the traditions and belief-systems in different geographical regions: West Africa in the first part, North Africa in the second part, and as for the third part, well… I don’t want to give too much away yet! I’m also attempting to show how the character’s conscience and morals evolve over time, basing the three different parts on the concept of nafs in Islam, which translates as the self or the ego. The three main stages of the nafs are: the inciting nafs, where lower basic instincts dominate; the self-accusing nafs, where the conscience is awaked and some sense of right and wrong develops; and finally the nafs at peace where the soul becomes tranquil and one’s faith and resolve to do good are resolute.

Other sources of inspiration include authors such as Tahir Shah, Iain Banks, Paul Auster, Douglas Kennedy, and William Boyd; not forgetting – since the trilogy falls loosely in the horror / supernatural genre – horror greats like H. P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz, and Dan Simmons.

I would also like to recommend a new author I discovered recently, Eowyn Ivey. Her two novels are based in 19th century Alaska. The first one, The Snow Child, is based on a Russian folk tale about a girl made out of snow coming alive. The second is a story of exploration and adventure in the unforgiving climate of Alaska, with myths and supernatural elements an integral part of the tale.

 

 

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Andrew Cairns is the author of the Witch’s List, a witchcraft themed novel released in June, 2016. The novel follows sceptic Sandy Beech, who marries an exotic Ivorian woman, and drawn into her world, finds himself subject to mystefying and dangerous black magic. He is forced to confront his deepest beliefs as he attempts to extricate himself from these events before they kill him.

His second novel, One More Arabian Night: Book II in the Witch’s List trilogy, takes Sandy on a new adventure to Morocco, where he hopes to wed the beautiful Hurriya, a medical student whom he met in Paris. He must come to grips with the local customs and superstitions: miraculous water, djinns, polygamy… and once again witchcraft!

 

 

 

Interview with M.R. Mackenzie Author of the Anna Scavolini Thrillers

 

 

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M. R. Mackenzie was born and lives in Glasgow, Scotland. He studied at Glasgow University and has a PhD in Film Studies. In 2016, he contributed a chapter on the Italian giallo film to Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion.

In addition to writing, he works as an independent Blu-ray/DVD producer and has overseen releases of films by a number of acclaimed directors, among them Dario Argento, Joe Dante and Seijun Suzuki.

His debut novel, In the Silence, reached #2 in Amazon UK’s Scottish crime fiction bestsellers chart.

 

 

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Interview 

 

Why did you decide to get a PhD in Film studies?

If I’m being completely honest, a major factor was that, at the time, I was in my early twenties and had very little idea as to what I hoped to do with my life. I’d just completed a Masters in Film Studies, which I’d enjoyed, and felt I had certain things to say about an obscure body of films – the Italian “giallo” thrillers of the early 1970s – which no one else was saying. One of my lecturers, who later became my thesis supervisor, encouraged me to do a PhD, which I took as a vote of confidence and duly submitted my application. In doing so, I was able to avoid the big bad world for another five and a half years, while at the same time exploring, in considerable depth, a body of films I really like. The end result was a 90,000-word doorstop that people tell me has enhanced their understanding of and enjoyment of giallo films… though I did come out the other end knowing I didn’t want to spend another minute in academia!

 

 

 

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What was it like writing your first book?

Strangely enough, a lot like writing my PhD thesis, both in terms of overall word count and the sheer amount of time I spent on it! In the beginning, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing or if I was even capable of writing a novel, but I persevered and, over the course of several years, kept coming back to the manuscript, chipping away at it, refining it, adding layers to it… If I was doing it again today, it wouldn’t take me anything like as long – indeed, I wrote the first draft of the manuscript I recently finished in little more than two months – but at the time it was an essential learning process for me as I was effectively teaching myself how to write a novel from scratch, so there was a lot of trial and error involved.

 

 

How does your writing process differ between screenplay and manuscript?

It’s funny you should ask, because In the Silence, my first novel, actually started life as a screenplay. I wrote it very quickly: it took me somewhere between two and three weeks to go from the initial idea to a finished (albeit seriously rough) first draft – so I suppose you could say the biggest difference is time! I tend to find that there’s not actually a whole lot that separates the two mediums when it comes to the early planning stages. With both, I write copious notes and spend a long time figuring out the structure, the twists and turns, where the various act breaks occur, and then only start the actual process of drafting once I have a very thorough outline from which to work. A crucial difference, though, and one that I’ve learned to really appreciate as I’ve left scripts behind in favour of novels, is that, when you’re writing prose, you’ve got an opportunity to really get inside your characters’ heads. You’re party to their inner thoughts and emotions in a way that you’re simply not with a film. When you’re writing a script, you have to convey everything through action and dialogue, whereas, with a novel, you’re free to draw on a much broader and in my view richer toolset.

 

 

 

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What did you experience writing about criminology lecturer Anna?

Writing Anna is definitely an interesting experience. In many respects, we have a lot in common, while in others we’re polar opposites – not least the fact that I’m a 6 ft 3 man while she’s a 5 ft 2 woman! She’s someone who tends to have very definite opinions about things – again, some of which I agree with, while with others I disagree with her completely. In real life, I’m not sure how well we’d get on – though I suspect I’d probably just play it safe and agree with everything she said – but I do admire her determination and tenacity… even if it sometimes gets her into trouble. Over the course of In the Silence, I take her to some very dark places indeed, and I can tell you for a fact that I don’t half as much resilience as her.

 

What do you enjoy writing about crime fiction?

It’s a really good question and one I’m not sure I can adequately explain. I find myself drawn to crime and horror, both on the page and on the screen, both as a reader/viewer and as a writer. I suspect there’s something about the vicarious thrill of exploring our darkest fears from a position of safety – a bit like going skydiving or on a rollercoaster. But I also think that, more than pretty much any other type of “genre novel”, crime fiction tells us something about society. All the best crime novels, in my opinion, comment on or reveal some sort of truth about the world today, whether it’s something their authors put there deliberately or something that’s seeped into the bones of the story without its creator being conscious of it. Also, I really love a good mystery and putting all the clues together, whether I’m the one coming up with them or just the one trying to figure them all out.

 

 

 

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Tell about Zoe Callahan in your next book, Cruel Summer.

Zoe was a secondary character in In the Silence, and for Cruel Summer, I elevated her to the position of central protagonist. I designed her to be the polar opposite of her best friend Anna. Where Anna is studious and a bookworm, Zoe is a party girl. Where Anna has very definite opinions about the way the world is and how it should be, Zoe doesn’t really have what you would call an ideology. Her emotions are very intense, but her response to any given situation is always governed by how it affects her or the people she cares about in the immediate sense as opposed to having a highly developed moral or philosophical set of beliefs. That makes her a lot of fun to write, because her responses are always very raw and visceral. She has a keen sense of right and wrong, and when she perceives an injustice as having taken place, she’s incapable of sitting on her hands and doing nothing. But because she’s naïve and impulsive, she tends not to think through the consequences of her actions, so her attempts to make things better quickly end up having precisely the opposite effect…

 

 

Who is Dominic Ryland and what motivates him?

Ryland is a mysterious figure, and intentionally so. He’s a charismatic but previously largely unknown politician who is suddenly thrust into the spotlight when certain shadowy figures, who are pulling the strings behind the scenes, pressure him into running for leadership of his party. We fairly quickly discover that he’s not a nice man at all, though I’ve deliberately kept his motivations, and the nature of the hold his “handlers” have over him, vague. If you want to find out where he really comes from and what motivates him to do what he does, you’ll have to read the book!

 

 

Does Cruel Summer have any thematic elements?

The main theme of Cruel Summer is justice – more specifically, exploring the limitations of the judicial process and both the rights and wrongs and the implications of taking matters into one’s own hands when the official system lets you down. Smashing the system, standing up to power, dispensing your own idea of justice – all these things are incredibly appealing, but as Zoe learns to her cost, all actions have consequences, and other people may end up paying the price for your follies…

 

 

 

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Zoe Callahan is having the summer from hell… and it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

She’s stuck in a dead-end job, her relationship is going nowhere, and the memory of the Kelvingrove Park Murders three years ago continues to cast a long shadow over every aspect of her life.

When a prostitute is brutally assaulted by Dominic Ryland, a rising political star with a suspiciously spotless personal reputation, Zoe leaps at the chance to distract herself with a noble cause, and sets out on a one-woman crusade to bring Ryland to justice.

But in doing so, she quickly finds herself on the wrong side of some very dangerous people – people who have reputations to protect and who would think nothing of silencing Zoe by any means necessary.

An explosive thriller set against the backdrop of a sweltering heatwave, Cruel Summer is the sequel to M.R. Mackenzie’s critically acclaimed In the Silence and the second instalment in the Kelvingrove Park Trilogy.

 

 

Available May 28 pre-order now: Cruel Summer

 

 

M.R. Mackenzie image

 

 

M. R. Mackenzie was born and lives in Glasgow, Scotland. He studied at Glasgow University and has a PhD in Film Studies. In 2016, he contributed a chapter on the Italian giallo film to Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion.

In addition to writing, he works as an independent Blu-ray/DVD producer and has overseen releases of films by a number of acclaimed directors, among them Dario Argento, Joe Dante and Seijun Suzuki.

His debut novel, In the Silence, reached #2 in Amazon UK’s Scottish crime fiction bestsellers chart.

 

M.R. Mackenzie

 

 

 

 

 

Why I write Psychological Thrillers by A.J. Waines

 

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AJ Waines writes Psychological Thrillers with *nearly half-a-million* copies sold worldwide. She’s a #1 Bestselling Author: GIRL ON A TRAIN topped the full UK and Australian Kindle Charts in 2015 & 2016. She’s also the author of Psychological thrillers Don’t You Dare, and Inside The Whispers. 

 

 

Don't-you-Dare Medium

 

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Why I write Psychological Thrillers

By AJ Waines

 

As a child, I devoured the Famous Five mysteries by Enid Blyton and was later drawn to crime thrillers, such as A Simple Plan by Scott Smith and The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. Ever since they became recognised as a distinct category, however, I’ve been captivated by psychological thrillers, loving writers such as Minette Walters and Nicci French, from the 1990’s onwards. At the time, I was in awe of all writers and the idea of actually putting together a psychological thriller myself was completely beyond me!

Before I first had a go at writing fiction in 2008, I was a psychotherapist for 15 years. As well as seeing clients with mainstream issues such as low self-esteem, depression and relationship issues, I was privileged to work with ex-convicts from high-security institutions. I found this work fascinating and aside from giving me ideas for novels, it gave me considerable insight into the disturbed and criminal mind.

So, should I try to write murder mysteries or psychological thrillers..? Which would I choose? In the end I didn’t. I put the two genres together.

In my first attempt at a novel, The Evil Beneath, I wanted to create a story that had a distinct mystery on the surface and a deeper psychological thriller lurking underneath. To create dissonance between what the reader ‘knows’ and what the lead character hasn’t yet worked out. I like to find ways to mislead the reader and to create jeopardy from the ‘inside-out’, rather than from the ‘outside-in’. By this I mean that the characters are exposed to danger on a mental level – mind-games and deception – rather than (or as well as!) a physical one.

I’ve written nine psych thrillers to date, with another in the pipeline, and my plots usually centre around the  hidden unreliability or instability of individuals in the story. My protagonists often face a tortuous situation: a missing child, a death made to look like suicide, a stalker, a simple but deadly mistake, for instance. In Don’t you Dare, for example, the story starts with a mother misunderstanding a situation involving her daughter and killing someone. This kind of mystery allows the reader to get right inside the minds of key players. It encourages them to try to anticipate how characters might handle certain dilemmas and tempts the reader towards trying to figure out what their true motives are. Not just ‘who dunnit’– but ‘why’ and ‘how dunnit’! It also invites readers to consider: what on earth would I do if I was faced with this situation..?

Most of all, I like the idea of dramatic events happening to ordinary people. A dark and deadly puzzle involving clues where hidden dangers come to light. I love twists and turns and that big OMG moment at the end, of course – that turns everything on its head! In my novel, No Longer Safe, for instance, nothing is as it seems… Many readers told me that when they got to the end of the book, they were so gob-smacked, they had to go back to the beginning to discover how the events turned out as they did! That’s such a great compliment for a writer. I love to knock my readers sideways – and there’s certainly a delicious sting in the tail in that novel!

In all my books I like exploring moral dilemmas and what happens when relationships are blighted by jealousy, secrets, lies or revenge. I like writing ‘domestic noir’ – what could be more scary than thinking you’re safe in your own home and finding that’s where your worst nightmares begin…

My current favourite authors are Belinda Bauer, Claire Kendall,  Lucy Clarke and Sabine Durrant. Brilliant books I’ve read recently are: Until You’re Mine by Samantha Hayes and Tideline by Penny Hancock.

Enemy at the Window, the next novel from AJ Waines is due for release by Bloodhound Books on 28 June.

 

 

BOOK GIVEAWAY

AJ Waines is giving away a free paperback of her book Inside the Whispers . To enter the drawing simply like, share this post on WordPress or on social media. A random winner will be selected! (UK adressess only)

May the odds ever be in your favor.

 

 

ITW only

 

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You can find AJ Waines at:

Amazon: http://viewauthor.at/AJWaines

Website www.ajwaines.co.uk

Newsletter http://eepurl.com/bamGuL

Blog: www.awaines.blogspot.co.uk

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AJWaines  

Twitter: www.twitter.com/AJWaines  

 

 

Author Biography:

 

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AJ Waines is a number one bestselling author, topping the entire UK and Australian Kindle Charts in two consecutive years, with Girl on a Train. Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, the author has sold nearly half a million copies of her books, with publishing deals in UK, France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and Canada (audio books).

AJ Waines has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and has been ranked a Top 10 UK author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). She lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband.

 

 

 

 

Who’s In Charge Here?  Getting Jurisdiction Correct in Your Writing

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Who’s In Charge Here?  Getting Jurisdiction Correct in Your Writing

By Micki Browning

 

I recently picked up a novel that featured an FBI agent as a first responder to a burglary investigation at a city residence. The author immediately lost her credibility with me and I put the novel aside. Why? The Feds are about four levels too high for the job. Can federal agents investigate a burglary? Absolutely. Are they the first responder in a city? No.

At some point, a story you’re writing will likely involve a law enforcement character. It may be on a traffic stop, in response to a crime, an encounter in a coffee shop, in another character’s school, or over the neighboring fence. Our nation has more than 750,000 law enforcement officers, so for art to mimic life, there are a couple of things you need to know.

 

 

What is Jurisdiction?

Jurisdiction is easiest to imagine as geographical boundaries, but is best thought of in terms of power. Jurisdiction defines the statutory authority of a government agency—in this case, law enforcement—to act and investigate based on the location of the incident, the type of crime, or the dollar amount at stake.

 

 

Who are you going to call?

Most people don’t worry about jurisdiction. If they need help, they dial 911 and then wait for help. As the master manipulator of your novel, however, you are the dispatcher and it’s up to you to decide who goes. Need a quick response? Local police almost always arrive first.

 

 

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The Locals

The backbone of law enforcement is the patrol force. New York City employs approximately 38,00 officers. A rural agency may only employ a single peace officer. Throw in a county agency and your first responder could be an officer, marshal, or deputy.

So how do you know the difference? If you are writing about an actual agency, it’s easy. Find a computer. Nearly all agencies have a wealth of information regarding size, jurisdiction, rank structure and community outreach on their websites. Photos will reveal the types of vehicles they drive, how they dress and the color of their uniform (which varies considerably).

Every county has a sheriff’s office. The sheriff is an elected official and is statutorily required to provide public safety for the county. Deputy sheriffs perform the patrol grunt work. They also carry out civil law responsibilities, such as serving subpoenas.

By comparison, cities often operate their own municipal police departments. An appointed Chief of Police runs the agency, and the first responders are referred to as officers. But police agencies are expensive to administer, and many cities contract for public safety services from the county sheriff. Likewise, most towns and villages contract from the county, although some operate their own office, and may be called marshals.

On very rare occasions, cities and counties combine agencies, for example the Miami-Dade Police Department and the agencies in San Francisco and Denver. Usually this occurs when the city and county share the same geographical boundaries.

 

 

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State Agencies

State agencies differ across the nation—and it gets murky fast. Many states have multiple public safety agencies that focus on either investigation or enforcement. Other states run one agency with different divisions.

California combines these functions under the umbrella of one massive agency. Remember the television show CHPs? Well, they do a lot more than ride motorcycles. In addition to patrolling the state’s highways, they also staff a Protective Services Division tasked with capitol, dignitary, judicial and governor protection. The agency oversees the State and Regional Threat Assessment Centers, Counterterrorism and Threat Awareness Section, and the Emergency Operations Center.

 

 

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Federal Agencies

Think state agencies are confusing? Wait until the Feds get involved. The Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and of course, the Federal Bureau of Investigations are familiar names. But don’t forget the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, United States Park Police, or everyone’s favorite, the Transportation Security Administration.

Involving federal agencies in a story typically requires more than casual research. Introducing a character as an officer from the FBI will mark you as a rube. While it is true that they are sworn peace officers, the FBI hierarchy is paved with agents, not officers. And just when you think you may have it all figured out, here’s a curveball. Law enforcement officers in the TSA are Federal Air Marshals. The U.S. Marshals Service, the oldest federal law enforcement agency, is the enforcement arm of the Federal Court System. Their enforcement officers are called U.S. marshals (as opposed to a town marshal). Confused yet?

 

 

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Who is the best?

That’s an easy one. It depends on what you need. Every agency thinks it’s the best. Law enforcement is remarkably similar to a family—complete with sibling rivalry, petty jealousies, and intense loyalty. Some departments welcome assistance; others not so much. The truth? The world is shrinking. People are far more mobile, crimes cross borders, and the Internet links continents. Law enforcement cannot be conducted in a vacuum. Departments rely on each other.

Federal task forces give smaller agencies the opportunity to tackle major issues in their communities. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency launched a task force to address Internet child exploitation. They also assist with cyber crimes, human trafficking and smuggling investigations. The Marshals Service routinely spearheads fugitive task forces. The Drug Enforcement Agency partners with local law enforcement on narcotic task forces.

 

 

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Truth is stranger than fiction

Jurisdiction can be tricky. Regardless of genre, the takeaway for authors is that with a little bit of background information, the truth can be manipulated to fit your story needs. The author at the beginning of the article could have legitimately had an FBI agent respond to a burglary investigation with a few easy tweaks. If the responding local officer noticed something in the home indicative of a federal issue—such as a tie to a bank robbery suspect, a terrorist threat, or if the investigation grew to include a kidnapping that crossed state lines—then the FBI would become involved. There’s even a way to legitimize a responding FBI agent. Set the crime on a Native American Indian Reservation. Some tribal nations have their own agency, but for those that don’t, the FBI holds jurisdiction.

In the end, the criminal justice system is a tangled network of agencies with overlapping jurisdictions and operational goals. But the people who make up those agencies are remarkably similar. Every officer swears to uphold the public trust, and they share a common goal. They tend to be strong-willed, opinionated and honorable. By virtue of law, they have enormous authority, and what they do with it can make great fiction.

This article has been updated. The original version appeared in The Florida Writer April 2015.

 

 

 

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An FBI National Academy graduate, Micki Browning worked in municipal law enforcement for more than two decades and retired as a division commander. She is the author of the award-winning Mer Cavallo Mystery series set in the Florida Keys. Her debut novel, Adrift, was an Agatha Award finalist for Best First Novel. It won both the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence and the Royal Palm Literary Award prior to its publication. Her latest thriller, Beached, was released in January 2018. It won the Royal Palm Literary Award for both Best Mystery and the Book Book of the Year.

Micki also writes short stories and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in dive magazines, anthologies, mystery magazines and textbooks. She lives in South Florida with her partner in crime and a vast array of scuba equipment she uses for “research.”

 

www.mickibrowning.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Elements of a Bestselling Thriller: Top Tips for Authors

 

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The Elements of a Bestselling Thriller: Top Tips for Authors

by Adam Durnham

 

When it comes to conjuring ideas for a thriller or mystery, authors should create perspectives that are relevant to current readers with a special attention to market trends. What are the possible elements of a bestselling thriller? Read to know more.

After reading a gripping mystery or thriller, do you find yourself thinking about how interesting it was? If you’re an author, there are elements to bestselling thrillers that can help your readers stay on the edges of their seats.

In order to do this, authors may want to strike a balance between the foundational elements of their work and current trends in thrillers and mysteries. Here are some top tips for authors who are planning to create pieces in these special genres.

 

Pick the type of thriller or mystery genre that you want to create

Thriller or mystery novels are broad categories on their own. It is important to know who your target readers are. Knowing your target audiences will help you determine the literary subgenre that you will use. Some thriller subgenres include:

 

  • Psychological thrillers: These thrillers include themes relating to psychological or mental health conditions. The protagonist or the perpetrators in such stories might have mental health issues.
  • Mystery thrillers: These thrillers feature mysteries that revolve around a crime, accident, or another incident. The protagonists in these works find and analyze clues throughout the stories.
  • Science fiction thrillers: These popular thrillers incorporate science fiction topics. Authors may be particularly creative with this subgenre, which may include futuristic themes such as aliens, monsters, human cloning, and entirely new worlds.

 

Developing clear ideas about your subgenres gives you a laser-sharp focus on the elements that you want to place in your story. The focus helps readers feel that your characters, settings, plot twists, and other crucial parts of your work are thematic and fit together cohesively.

 

Choose relevant themes

Theme is quite different from your subgenre. It unifies your story and gives something for your readers to think about as they progress through your story. This is helpful if you want to create a thriller or mystery novel, since you want to provide puzzle pieces that the readers can think about as they approach the end.

 

Consider using thriller or mystery story themes that people find relatable. They can involve problems such as mental health, addiction rehab, crime, or social injustices. These themes can bring value to your readers, especially if your readers advocate for such topics. Your book has a better chance at reaching the best-seller lists if many of your readers have firsthand experience with or knowledge of your themes.

 

Successful writers pay attention to what is happening in the larger culture. When topics about mental health, addictions, crime, or social problems appear in the news, books and movies associated with these relevant themes also appear.

 

Plot your story before beginning to write

Before starting your first chapter, consider creating an outline of your thriller or mystery to develop your plot. Outlines are important for many types of work, but they are especially crucial for thrillers and mysteries because those genres include large amounts of action. Creating a well-plotted story can help you avoid unnecessary fluff and irrelevant elements in your writing.

 

Your plot should include a buildup of conflict, and your characters’ goals and motivations should be consistent with your themes. Thrillers or mysteries can start at the middle of the action to create a thrilling atmosphere that you can heighten for effect.

 

Experiment with multiple points of view

One sign of a great author is his or her flexibility in presenting the points of view of various characters. Some bestselling thrillers and novels shift between the viewpoints of the protagonists and the villains in the stories instead of presenting the story entirely in the third person perspective.

 

Shifting between multiple points of view depends on your theme and other elements of your story. But multiple viewpoints can greatly benefit mystery and psychological thrillers. They can showcase the depth of the story and portray the intrinsic motivations, thoughts, and actions of the characters.

 

Create interesting plot twists

To develop an interesting plot twist, you need to get inside the minds of readers. One element of bestselling thrillers or mystery novels is that many plot twists can appear quite predictable at the beginnings of stories yet profound and surprising at the ends of the same pieces.

You can create these puzzle pieces to appear one way at the beginning and middle of your stories while creating a sense of jeopardy and conflict. Such story construction encourages readers to exercise their common sense and typical thought processes as they proceed through the plot.

When they encounter your story’s plot twist, readers may be surprised and pleased when your writing reveals your actual story. This shift is what makes the story gripping and exciting for readers. Well-written plot twists are one of your greatest tools as an author of mysteries or thrillers.

 

Ready, set, write!

If you keep in mind these elements of writing a bestselling novel, you can stay on top of your game. Great authors create solid foundations for their stories, incorporate creativity, and understand trends that matter to readers.

 

 

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Managing the Ensemble Cast of Characters by Saralyn Richard

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Managing the Ensemble Cast of Characters

 

by Saralyn Richard

When I decided to write a mystery novel situated around a weekend birthday celebration at a country mansion (Murder in the One Percent ©2018 Black Opal Books), I wasn’t fully aware of how challenging it would be to populate the party with a slew of guests and keep the novel moving for readers. To start with, I wanted to have seven couples on the guest list, plus a single, for a total of fifteen characters. Some would be the hosts, one would be the murder victim, one or more would be the killer(s), and others would be the suspects. Fifteen seemed like a fine number until I started to write the first few chapters.

 

 

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For one thing, the party guests, like most in real life, were quite similar. Most of them had been to college together, and most of them had careers in the same field of endeavor. They were all members of the wealthy one percent, so they all wore expensive clothes and jewelry, enjoyed multiple residences, and indulged in luxurious hobbies. It was fun to pull back the curtain on their lives, but I soon realized a few things:

 

  • The characters were too much alike.
  • Readers would have a hard time remembering who was who.
  • Readers would have a hard time identifying with any of the characters.
  • There wasn’t enough contrast among the characters to make for interesting dialogue, narration, and description.

 

Once I understood the challenges of managing the ensemble cast of characters, I cut one couple from the book, taking the number at the party to thirteen. What a perfect number for a party that started on a Friday the 13th, a party where someone would be killed.

Next, I created a character bible for each partygoer. It wasn’t enough to document the physical traits of each one. I wanted to give everyone a particular way of talking, speaking, moving. So if a character flipped her hair behind her shoulder or rubbed the material of her pants between her thumb and forefinger when nervous, the reader would know exactly which character that was.

While all of the characters were among the ultra-rich, I gave them different experiences with money, and different attitudes toward it, as well. Some inherited it, some earned it, some had it and lost it, and some married into it. Some were haughty, while others were down-to-earth.

Each of the characters has had identifiable past experiences with the victim, some unpleasant enough to serve as a potential motive for killing him. As everyone comes together to a weekend retreat at a remote country mansion, the reader is presented with a “locked room mystery.” The killer has to be one of the party guests.

Once the murder occurs, the detective and other characters provide plenty of contrast, but by then, the readers have already formed impressions of the ensemble of one-percenters. All they have to do then is buckle up and enjoy the ride.

 

 

Galveston Author Saralyn Richard

 

Award-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard, is a writer, who teaches on the side. Her children’s picture book, Naughty Nana, has reached thousands of children worldwide. Murder in the One Percent, semi-finalist in the Chanticleer CLUE awards for best suspense/thriller, pulls back the curtain on the privileged and powerful rich. Set on a gentleman’s farm in Pennsylvania and in the tony areas of New York, the book shows what happens when someone comes to a party with murder in his heart and poison in his pocket. Look for the sequel, A Palette for Love and Murder, at the end of this year. Saralyn has published stories, articles, and poems in a variety of collections and magazines, and she edited the anthology, Burn Survivors’ Journey. A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing and a literature class. Her website is www.saralynrichard.com

 

 

 

 

How sampling a range of genres can help your writing

 

Sam boush

 

 

Reading it all How

sampling a range of genres can help your writing
By Sam Boush, author of All Systems Down

 

Most of us have a favorite genre. We read cozy mysteries. Or romance. Or thrillers. We write in these categories also. And we rarely step out of the warm, comfortable embrace of the fiction we know and care about into  other genres.

But we should.

Reading across genres helps us write better in our own. It can help us develop deeper characters, build better suspense, and create a richer, more realistic world to draw in the reader.

Here are four genres you should be reading to improve your writing.

 

 

Genre books

 

 

Westerns

When you think “Western” you might think about a lawman who comes in from the East. Or Tumbleweed. Or the Cowboys and Indian tropes.

But the best part about Westerns have nothing to do with those things. Instead, the real meat is in the villains.

We read about wickedness without consequence. Bad guys who do terrible things and make the reader seethe. And when we read a Western, it’s often this despicable antagonist who keeps us flipping page-after- page to reach the conclusion where, inevitably, justice prevails and the villain is driven off or killed.

One publisher called my antagonist “not very scary” and “almost clownish.” So what did I do? I swung by the library for a few Westerns and rewrote the villain. And it worked. After All Systems Down was published, Kirkus called my bad gal, “The most striking character… a terrifying villain.”

If your book has an antagonist who just isn’t bad enough, I strongly recommend reading this genre, to learn how to craft a truly repugnant but- believable bad guy. It worked for me.

 

 

Western

 

 

Romance

Even in non-Romance- genre fiction, readers like to see sparks. Emotion. Steamy love. You don’t have to be writing bodice-ripping scenes to benefit (though if you are writing sex scenes, you absolutely need to avoid ending up on the Telegraph’s list of bad ones.)

The kind of romance that enters your book may just be in how a husband looks at his wife from across the room. Or how a woman’s imagination takes flight when she hears a stranger at the door. But no matter how small, a little bit of romantic energy can charge up your writing. And Romance books can help.

 

 

Romance

 

 

Thriller

A ticking clock. A racing heart. Intrigue. These attributes of a thriller can give your writing a sense of urgency. Readers will turn pages faster, sweating sometimes, eager for an outcome.

If your work in progress doesn’t quite get your readers feeling like they’re straddling a kicking bull, maybe you should read how some of the great thriller writers build suspense by keeping readers on the edge of their seats as the plot builds to a climax.

 

 

thriller

 

 

Non-Fiction

A solid foundation in reality will allow you to create believable scenes and circumstances. Whether you’re writing about a character who loves old cars, a conversation with an arborist, or
cyber war, every conversation, thought and action can have more resonance if it’s well
researched.

Michael Crichton investigated DNA extensively to write Jurassic Park. Tom Clancy researched submarines. Harper Lee studied the legal system. And you, also, should be poring over non-fiction books so you get the details right, no matter what you’re writing about.

Personally, non-fiction is my favorite genre. Not only does it allow the writer to craft a world that meets expectations, but by learning new and interesting facts in this category we are able to surprise the reader with unexpected information.

No matter what you’re writing, looking outside your genre can add depth and intricacy. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, don’t be afraid to play genre-roulette at your local library. Give yourself five minutes to pick out three random books. Check them out and don’t read them until you’re home. This is a great way to kick writer’s block to the curb and maybe create depth in your secondary characters the reader could never have predicted.

 

 

Sam boush

 

 

Sam Boush is a novelist and award-winning journalist. He has worked as a wildland firefighter, journalist, and owner of a mid-sized marketing agency. Though he’s lived in France and Spain, his heart belongs to Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his wife, Tehra, two wonderful children, and a messy cat that keeps them from owning anything nice. He is a member of the Center for Internet Security, International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, and Cloud Security Alliance.

 

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All Systems Down

 

Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

 

 

 

Thanks Sam!