Developing a Genuinely Tense and Scary Scene

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A few weeks ago, I woke up from a dream – more like a nightmare – frozen in place, unable to move from the fear it had evoked. And in true writer form, the first thing I thought was, “I must remember this feeling so I can put in it into a novel.”

As with all my dreams, it was fairly nonsensical. I arrived at my grandparents’ place and noticed a man standing in the street with a gun in his mouth. I went inside where my grandparents, one of my cousins and one of his daughters were unaware of what was going on outside. As I explained to my cousin what I’d seen, he went to look out the window and suddenly the man in the street noticed he had a house full of people at his mercy. He took the gun from his mouth and pointed it at the house.

We all rabbited to a bedroom at the back of the house but the hallway that runs the length of the weatherboard provided a clear view out into the street. Inexplicably, the man was suddenly on the roof of the house across the road and the gun that had been small enough to fit inside his mouth was now a bazooka that had to be carried on his shoulder. Then he was running down the driveway and had found our hiding place. There was nowhere left to run…

Thankfully, that’s when I woke up. But it had all the elements of a genuinely tense and scary scene. To frighten the pants off your readers, here are the individual components. Continue reading

Back to Basics: The First Choices When Writing a Novel

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When we decide we want to write a novel, however sudden or lengthy the development of that decision, there are some very basic choices writers must make about how the novel will be written. Some of these choices will be an evolution of the story and characters but sometimes writers forget that they have a choice in these matters at all.

Writing often begins from random thoughts, which turn into scribblings, which turn into notes and all of sudden there’s a first sentence and then more sentences. The choices – which are choices, regardless of whether or not the writer is conscious of them – might have already been made without any great thought as to whether those choices do a disservice to the writing.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about tense, I’m talking about point of view and I’m talking about perspective. Continue reading