Monday, September 3, 2012

What's The Difference Between Mystery and Suspense?

Picture by Judy Harper 2012

     Have you ever wondered if there was a difference between mystery and suspense writing? I have. In trying to answer this question, I came across a post, by Janet L. Smith, at a blogsite, MysteryNet. She gave a great explanation for the difference by using an interview of Alfred Hitchcock(click here to read her full post)
     Hitchcock: Crucial is the difference between suspense and surprise. To put it simply, if you have a scene where two characters are conversing in a cafe, and a bomb suddenly goes off under the table, the audience experiences surprise. On the other hand, if the audience sees the saboteur place the bomb, is told that it will go off at one o'clock, and can see a clock in the scene, the mundane conversation between two cafe patrons now becomes one of intense suspense, as the audience holds its collective breath waiting for the explosion. Fifteen minutes of suspense, as opposed to fifteen seconds of surprise. It was therefore necessary that the audience be as fully informed as possible.
     Janet L. Smith: based on this principle, the suspense thriller has been loosely defined as a story in which the audience is waiting for something significant to happen. The protagonist's job is to prevent the speeding bus from exploding, or the aliens from eating the crew. The reader experiences a vicarious thrill by identifying with the hero and the danger he faces, becoming a participant in the chase.
     A mystery, on the other hand, is a novel of revelation, with action more mental than physical. A significant event, usually a murder, has just occurred, and the protagonist's job is to discover who committed the crime, and why. The dilemma created for the writer of traditional mysteries is the fact that the villain and the details of the crime must remain unidentified, breaking Hitchcock's rule of keeping the audience informed.
     A mystery writer quickly learns that it is far harder to generate suspense when the story revolves around something that has already happened, as opposed to a life-threatening event that is going to happen in the future. For this reason, most mysteries contain elements of suspense, where the protagonist or another character's life is in danger as long as the villain remains at large. But the mystery writer loses the most significant source of conflict by virtue of the fact that the protagonist and her major foe cannot face off in conflict until the final scene. A threat from an unknown source is never as exquisite as the danger of a known and powerful villain.
     So, if it's that simple, why don't we all give up writing whodunits, and turn our attention to screenplays for the next Die Hard sequel? The answer is simple. While the traditional mystery may lack something in shock value and vicarious thrill, it has other merits. A successful mystery is compelling drama because it explores the uncharted territory of the mind. Few mysteries today rely solely on a puzzle. The contemporary whodunit has become a whydunit. For the same reason that we read true crime, we read mysteries to find out why a sane person would be pushed to commit the ultimate crime, or how an insane murderer could so brilliantly cover his tracks. The reader gets involved because the mystery is such a perfect medium for revealing character. 
     Me:  After reading her post, I thought about the books by my all time favorite author Agatha Christie. She doesn't just rely upon solving a puzzle, she does write whydunits. I now have a better understanding of suspense versus mystery. Can you think of a truly suspenseful book that doesn't involve murder? Or a mystery that doesn't involve suspense? 
     Some links to go along with this discussion is:
            "When I Was Down, You Stood There Grinning", by Margot Kinberg.
            "Six Tips from John Steinbeck", by Jan Morrison
     Do you like blogfests? Click on this link to see an upcoming blogfest.  Alex J. Cavanaugh

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The First Big Thing-Where Did The Idea For Your Novel Come From?

Lackland AFB, 1965

The First Big Thing-Week #2 Where did you Get the Idea For Your Novel?

This is a modified version of Gail M. Baugniet's "The Next Big Thing".  A challenge she's started to help those who are trying to finalize the publication of their next novel. Gail gave me permission to restructure the challenge for those who are trying to finish and publish their first novel.  There are ten questions, so over the next ten weeks, the goal is to finish the novel, reach out to authors who are published and learn from them, create some great blogs and links that will encourage and motivate us.
You might want to check out Gail's week # 2 question Week # 2, and my week # 1 post.

    Judy:  As a young girl, twelve to fifteen, I wrote stories. I'd read a book and then create my own characters and settings.  After I graduated from high school, I took courses through the mail. Writing in journals was an outlet, which I continue to do, I still have some of the old journals. As time went by, I realized there was a particular time span in my life that I viewed as exciting and adventuresome, I wanted to write a novel about this period of time. The advice given is write about what you know. I knew I wanted to put what happened into words, so I came up with a semi-autobiography mixed with fiction.
     Where did you come up with your "idea for a novel"?

     Now for some links to writers and good writing blogs......

Wrote By Rote-writing memoirs by Arlee Bird
Grandma's Briefs-bits and byes on life's second act, Lisa
Alex J. Cavanaugh- (a good published writer's blog)
Rachel Cotterill-(Beautiful photography)
Stephen Tremp's Website-(talk about wormholes)
Spunk On A Stick- L. Diane Wolfe   

Friday, August 24, 2012

More About Creating Book Titles, cont'd

China Doll

     Have you tried any of the rules with your title? Are you composing to complete your novel? How much have you written?
     To become motivated, write five words that describes your novel:
          B-52 sabotage
          Air Force
          First enlisted female airmen stationed there
     Next, set aside two hours on Saturday and Sunday to write.
     Click here and check out this post.
     Click "Is Your daily Routine Working?" to see if you need to modify your schedule to provide more writing time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The First Big Thing -Week #1

Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas 1968

     It's here, the first question of "The First Big Thing"! This is a modified version of Gail M. Baugniet's "The Next Big Thing".  A challenge she's started to help those who are trying to finalize the publication of their next novel. Gail gave me permission to restructure the challenge for those who are trying to finish and publish their first novel.  There are ten questions, so over the next ten weeks, the goal is to finish the novel, reach out to authors who are published and learn from them, create some great blogs and links that will encourage and motivate us. So click on the red link "The Next Big Thing", to read her post.
     Question one is What is the working Title of your book?
     Earlier in the week, I posted some information and links discussing the rules for book titles and also, how to come up with a title.  I had a title, "She was Air Force, He was Marine and It was Murder". But after reading the information, I realized this won't work. I had hoped my title would give a clue to what the book is about, such as the characters are in the Air Force and Marines, and that a murder takes place. Unfortunately, according to "Rules For A Better Book Title", a title shouldn't have more than thirty characters. If you want to read this post, click here. So I have another tentative title, but I want to try some of the suggestions from how to come up with a title. Right now though, I can't decide between  "A Sergeant, Vietnam and Murder" and "A Sergeant Finds Murder".
     Until I read Gail's post on What is the working Title, I hadn't really thought about a book cover, now, I'm excited about planning it. The cover will be for a future post.
     Our first step is to build a network of published authors.  The project is to list five links to published author blogs that you are following. If you don't have any, click on some of the following links, go to the comments and read what people have written.  If you like their comments, click on their picture, which will either take you to their profile and sometimes their blog.  The profile should list their blogs, follow them and you will be amazed at what you can learn. I'm going to list the links, then you will find Mr. Linky, fill in your information so we can click over to your blog post and see what you have written, and please leave a comment for my feedback. Thanks and lets keep each other updated on our progress!
     Five awesome writers whose work you want to read:
          Clarissa Draper 
         Monica Ferris       
         Margot Kinberg 
         Gail M. Baugniet
        Elizabeth S. Craig

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More About Creating Book Titles

Orange Beach, Florida 2007

     Wednesday is the big day to list the book title and I'm not sure of mine! The more I read the rules, the more I'm dissatisfied with the one I've created, so I've done some more searching and I found a great blog site! 
    Rachel Gardner, has posted a blog titled "How To Title Your Book", so click on the title and see all the useful information she's written. 
    Such as make sure of your book genre, is your book a mystery or drama? What do you want to convey with the title?
     Find twenty books on that are in the same genre as yours. Write them down, those you like and dislike, and why.
     Sit with a pencil and paper and free associate, making lists of words related to your book. Place them in columns: nouns, verbs, adjectives. Words that describe the setting and even your characters and the action or emotions.
     Try experimenting with word combinations, or words that might work as a single-word title.
     From these lists, come up with at least twenty possible titles.
                                          Rachel Gardner

Monday, August 20, 2012

Margot Kinberg-Confessions of a Mystery Novelist!

Picture from Confessions of a Mystery Novelist

     I found Margot Kinberg from visiting blogs and reading her comments. Her blog is where I discovered the Alphabet In Crime challenge. When I visited her blog today, her post was that she was celebrating her third year of blogging.  So pay her a visit, leave her a comment and add her to your blog list to follow. Her blog is Confessions of a Mystery Novelist.  
     Now, to see her post for Alphabet in Crime and other posts, try this link.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


     Inspiration, a sudden creative idea or one that moves the intellect..or prompts action. While a sudden creative idea usually comes from within, there are many times an outside stimulus triggers the idea, such as rain. I love to write on a rainy day.  For some reason, the cloudy day, the sudden rush of water on the roof, or the gentle raindrops splashing against the window tends to wrap me in my own world.  A world that usually revolves around the past or makes me feel that I'm alone, no pressures or stress, which frees my mind up for creating.
     I read about studies that show stress and anxieties hamper creativity.  I'm not a spontaneous acting person, so when someone wants to debate or argue with me, they will always win, because I need to be sure of my facts and know that it's the truth. Not so my brother and niece, ninety-nine percent of the time they verbalize all over me, then I find out they were, what's the word I'm looking for, lying or verbal bluffing otherwise known as BS. Usually, about midnight that night I wake up and think of all the responses I should and could have made.  It makes me want to punch their phone number in and finally express my thoughts and opinion!
     Music can be another outside stimulus for inspiration.  Then there's people who can trigger an inspiration.  My tenth grade English teacher was such a person, in addition to being an encourager.  Many people have a mentor to inspire them, or if you're a poet, the love of someone can "inspire" words.
     Certain books can be an inspiration, such as the Bible. The book of Ruth and Esther are an inspiration.  I see how much they accomplished, even with the restrictions of their era, they were able to be used by God. So much was against them, yet they persevered and succeeded at their tasks.
     How do you gain your inspiration?  Have you at one time used music, books , rain or a person for inspiration?