Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lynette Eason on Putting the Suspense Puzzle Together

Lynette Eason is a master at creating fiction that keeps your seat of the pants glued to the chair turning page after page. I asked her to share some writing "secrets." 

I was asked to write on the secrets of writing suspense. As I started thinking about it, I decided there weren’t really any secrets, just different ways of doing things. I know different authors have different way of writing. We’re all individuals. What works for one writer may not work for another.

I’m a SOTP writer. Meaning, SEAT OF THE PANTS. I write what comes to me. I write in sequential order and I edit as I go. If I get a brilliant idea halfway through the manuscript, I go back and add, but basically by the time I get done with the story, I’m done. However, that’s not to say that I don’t do some very basic plotting. And I think this is because I approach writing a story like doing a puzzle.

Step 1: Sort out all of the side pieces and frame your puzzle – This is the brief synopsis stage. A short summary of how I want the story to go.  There are not any real details here, but I have a beginning, a few scenes for the middle and the way the story will end.

Step 2: Find the dominant color and put all of the pieces together in one section -  Here is where I do my character development. Even though I’m a SOTP writer, I really need to know my characters before I can write anything worth keeping. I have a character worksheet I start filling in. Details are important here, like family, best friends, educational backgrounds, biggest fear, biggest secret, love interest, even what’s in the wallet or the purse.

Step 3: Find where the dominant color belongs in the puzzle and place in the approximate section within the frame. The few scenes I’ve sketched out need to go in the right place. I do use a writing software called Scrivener. It helps me keep my scenes organized. I love the ability to jot down an idea and store it later. When I come back to the software, I can move the scenes around to see which order works best—where they best fit into the puzzle—er story.

Step 4: Start filling in the gaps.  At this point, I have a pretty good outline of the story. Now I just need to go through one last time and make sure I’ve put in all the details, all the red herrings, explained all of the clues and not left anything dangling. Now, here is a little tip: As I’m writing the story, I’ve got to keep all this “stuff” in my head. However, there are times when I’m going along that I’ll come to a stop because I need to research something, or I can’t remember the name of a certain character, or what time of day it is. Whatever the detail is that I need to put in, I simply stop writing, insert a comment at that point using track changes and then later, go through all of the comments I made and insert the necessary information.

Step 5: The last piece of the puzzle = the last read through. Go through the whole story cleaning it up and doing one last edit. By the time you get to the end, you should be done.

So, as you see, writing suspense isn’t so much about secrets as it is about hard work and paying attention to details, taking your time and being creative. Putting the puzzle together one piece at a time until you have the big picture.


Casey said...

I'm reading your latest book right now, A Killer Among Us. Your system is working, because that is one great book! Helpful post too, thanks! :)

Lynette Eason said...

Thanks so much Casey, I appreciate your kind words. :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

I completely agree, Casey! Such page turners! Can't wait to read the rest of the series!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Those are great simple steps to putting a puzzle together, I love the tips :) It seems like each genre is its own little puzzle and has pieces to fit that no other genre has. It's just knowing which pieces go with which genre and what way works best for each writer to put them together. However, keeping all those twists and turns in order when writing suspense can still boggle my mind--don't know how you do it sometimes :) Thanks for the post today!

Ralene said...

I am an aspiring suspense writer. It is inspiring to see how a fellow PUBLISHED suspense writer does it. Thank you for sharing your tips and tricks with us. :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

I love the comparison of a puzzle. Hmmm...food for thought...how to put the puzzle together for each genre...I know what you mean though, it does seem like it would be hard to keep all the details in place in suspense in particular.

I'm so glad it was helpful to you and glad to have such a variety of writers visiting the Alley.