Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What Makes Suspense Different?

Suspense was not my first pick when I started writing fiction. Yes, most of my novels and stories at the time had suspense undertones, but they weren’t specifically suspense. At least, I didn’t think they were. The last novel I completed made me realize that my heart was drawn to creating suspense, even if I didn’t necessarily follow the formula.

What makes suspense different?

In a lot of novels, the focus is on the hero and the hero’s journey. Readers aren’t really concerned with other characters except for how they relate to the main character(s). In a suspense novel, we have the hero…and then the villain.

In a suspense novel, the villain is just as important to the story as the hero. Without it, the story becomes a mystery and takes on a completely different perspective. Here’s an excerpt from a Writer’s Digest article written by Simon Wood:

“The key difference is perspective. Both genres deal with a crisis event to hook the reader and keep the story going. But the storytelling approach is completely different.

Let’s say the crisis is the assassination of the president of the United States. In a mystery, the president would die in the first chapter, and the rest of the book would focus on the government agents charged with finding the killer and bringing him to justice. In a suspense story, an intercepted communiqué or a bungled weapons drop would take place in the first chapter, alerting the White House of an imminent presidential assassination threat. This time, the government agents would be charged with protecting the president while tracking down the would-be assassin. The story would climax at the point where the assassination attempt is thwarted. In a nutshell, suspense creates drama before the crisis event while mystery starts its thrill ride after the crisis event.”

The suspense writer has a unique problem to overcome. All the important facts in the story come out in the first couple of chapters. We know WHO the hero and villain are. We know WHAT both of their goals are (or at least an idea) and what is driving them. There’s little mystery left except for how the hero is going to stop the villain.

Now the suspense writer has to use their storytelling skills to create a host of problems, choices, and events to come between the hero and the goal of stopping the villain. Anything that can go wrong, should; the path is never easy, always winding, and hopefully not what the reader anticipates.

What stands out about the suspense genre to you?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Happy Birthday to me!

I have always been a big fan of birthdays. I love surprise parties, festive dinners, and, okay…I love presents, too. *smiles* But, I don’t just love them for myself, I love everyone’s birthday. It is a unique opportunity to celebrate the life and future of those we know and love.

Let’s see…some statistics about my life in the last 28 years.

• I survived one life and death surgery a couple of days after I was born
• I was blessed with loving parents and two crazy sisters (love ya guys!)
• I was first published in a small city-wide literary magazine in the third grade for a short prose on Martin Luther King, Jr.
• In 8th grade, I learned that I really could not sing.
• I still tried to sing by joining the praise band at church between my freshman and sophomore year in high school
• I’ve never broken a bone in my body…that we know for sure.
• I was sick for six months straight with a slew of colds, sinus infections, and ear infections. It got to the point I had to have a scope shoved up my nose, down my throat, and into my lungs, followed by a CAT scan or MRI whatever it was they did.
• I’ve had to undergo allergy shots…twice.
• I have been to 30 states and 3 countries.
• I graduated in the top 10 of my class with a 3.89 GPA.
• I was offered two partial scholarships…one to Manhattan Christian College in Manhattan, KS and one to Eureka College in Eureka, IL (same college Ronald Regan went to).
• I want to be a published author.
• I took advantage of everything high school had to offer, but failed to do so in college.
• I have a wonderful husband and two darling daughters.
• I want to adopt children (yes, more than one) some day when the girls are older.
• I’ve gotten three speeding tickets.
• I’ve screwed up more times than I can count. I’ve disappointed everyone I know at least one time in my life.
• I am a Christian. I am redeemed.
• I am forgiven.
• I am learning to love the way God intends me a little more with each passing day.
• I am learning to forgive in the same way.
• I am a work in progress…every day is a new chance b/c God’s mercies are new every morning.
• I am 28 today.
What are your major highlights?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Why Suspense?

The first suspense story I remember reading was The Cat in the Hat. What? You don’t think it was a suspense story? But, but…didn’t you wonder how much he could stack on his head? Weren’t you on the edge of your seat just knowing that eventually it would all topple over? It was only a matter of time, after all.

Random House Dictionary describes suspense as “a state or condition of mental uncertainty or excitement, as in awaiting a decision or outcome, usually accompanied by a degree of apprehension or anxiety.” Now tell me you weren’t awaiting the outcome with a bit of apprehension. Of course, if you never got to experience The Cat in the Hat as a small child, you are probably laughing at me, but that’s okay. You just don’t know what you were missing. :P

Since that time many moons ago, my tastes have become a bit more refined. I enjoy an eclectic interest in genres from a good, clean romance to a touch of sci-fi to a Midwest, small town drama (via my critique partner! Hi, Cathy!). But, ah…there’s nothing like a good suspense novel to have me cuddled up in a blanket, sipping hot chocolate and soaking up every word, emotion, and plot twist.

So, what does it take to be a suspense writer? What makes us standout from other novelists? Is it exploring the depths of our masochistic minds? Is it our knack for taking the worst situation we can imagine, and finding that one way to make it that much intense?

In Stephen King’s “Storm of the Century”, we have what the title hints at, the worst storm in a small town’s history. Throw in a slew of missing people throughout the night and we now have a terrifying mystery to go along with the worst storm ever. In Ted Dekker’s novel, “Kiss”, the heroine loses her memory. What can be worse than not knowing who you are? Finding out that you have a huge secret that could destroy your family…or running from an unknown killer?

Suspense is full of plot twists that keeps the readers on their toes, characters that win their hearts, and the sense of waiting for the next shoe to drop…all in good time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Welcome one and all! I am Ralene, your guide into the world of suspense. From the pulse-pounding plot to the colorful, crazy characters to the elevated emotions and terrifying timing. A world ripped from the minds of writers to entertain, teach, and drain the last bit of energy from each reader. As Christian supernatural suspense writer, I find the unveiling of a good plot with standout characters fascinating.

This medium of information and fun is for Christian writers, readers, and movie fanatics alike. A little bit of everything for everybody—from book/movie reviews to writing tips and maybe even a contest or two. I highly encourage discussions and feedback. If you don’t agree with me, I want to hear about it! Did I give a book an A+ review, when you hardly think it deserves a C? Rant on! This is a forum to help us all grow and enjoy the world of suspense…and I’m all for it.

So, the question is, are you ready to begin the journey?