Tag: psychological thrillers

psychological thrillers

When To Write And When To Read

Hemingway supposedly said write drunk, edit sober. As a thriller writer, I tend to harness my anxiety for my art. I write caffeinated and edit extra caffeinated.  But there’s little I love more than reading on a beach. Writers need to read. To know the market and understand what kind of stories have been told and what still needs telling, we have to read the best sellers in our genre.  I don’t read when I am writing because I fear unconsciously appropriating another author’s voice, or that of one of her characters. On vacation, however, I tend to read a book-a-day.  I have been on vacation since Friday. Since I write psychological thrillers, I’ve read the following.  This is currently my reading view:  

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Must A Main Character Be Like Me?

I am in the midst of rewriting large portions of my fourth book this week. There are three POV characters in this story. One is an African American female police officer, aged 27, single sans kids. She’s been a cop for three years and is very smart with a high EQ, but a troubled history. Another is a hugely successful 37-year-old Black female orthopedist of West Indian descent that armchair quarterbacks injuries on a sports network as a medical commentator. She’s in a heap of trouble. The third is a 35-year-old former Caucasian attorney turned stay-at-home mom to twin boys, one of whom is autistic and homeschooled. She’s a walking anxiety disorder with a sharp wit. All the characters are American. None of them are particularly like me, though I am sure my personality and observations bleed into all my characters. Specifically, their back stories and cultural heritages don’t match my own (though the orthopedist is of West Indian descent and so is the Jamaican half of my family).  I have things in common with all of my POV characters, though. And, most importantly, I’ve done my research.  All this writing has me thinking this week about character creation. How like me should my characters be? How much latitude do I have, as a […]

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To Google Maps, with Love

I recently wrote a short story for an upcoming anthology inspired by the music of Lou Reed. My story, Pale Blue Eyes, based on his song, could not take place in New Jersey or New York, the states with which I am most familiar, having lived in both for years. Something about the rumble of Lou Reed’s gravelly tenor refused to let me throw the characters inspired by his songs in the fast-talking, faster moving Manhattan area and its environs.  So, I set it in Las Vegas. Part of it takes place on the infamous strip, which I’ve been to. But the far more significant part of the story takes place at Las Vegas’ Red Rock Canyon State Park, which I have never visited.  Thanks to Google, though, I could virtually visit. The Internet Giant’s map site let me walk through the Calico Tanks trail, showing me all the scenery I might see on a given day, every step of the way.  I could see the dusty trail, the striated red rock formations and the prickly scrub brush lining the narrow foot path.  I could view user uploaded images at different points in the day of the giant red rocks.  Thanks to associated links, I could even visit […]

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How Literary Can A Little Murder Be?

 First off, my sincere apologies to our readers and fellow Missdemeanors. May arrived without my flipping back the calendar. In my frenzy to complete my fourth novel and finish editing my third book before my young kids finish school for the summer–diminishing my workday to the dwindling hours when the sun isn’t up–I failed to notice April’s exit. Consequently, I also didn’t realize that it was my week to blog. Mea Culpa! The book I am currently writing has been my most time consuming and challenging to date. But, that’s a good thing. Each novel I undertake forces me to think harder, not only about the intricacies of plot and character, but also about what the heck I want to say as a writer. What questions do I wish to pose to readers? In what debates should we engage? How can I craft a story that works both as an entertaining and page-turning puzzle filled with “real” characters that also manages to say something meaningful? (Or, at least, spur interesting book club conversation.)   In my upcoming book, Lies She Told (Shameless Plug: IN STORES SEPT. 12), I wanted to explore the creative process, to grapple with questions such as: Where do story ideas come from? How might an author’s own history influence […]

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My Relationship Status With E-Books: It's Complicated.

 As a reader, I love e-books.  I love their immediacy. If I hear about an interesting novel, within seconds I can have it on the Kindle app on my iPhone or on my e-reader device. Books arrive to me faster than prime shipping. It’s like living in a library with all the new releases.     Digital books are also cheaper than hardcovers. E-reader apps have built in highlighters so I don’t need to sit with a sharpie by my bed to make note of favorite passages. Best of all, they have built in dictionaries. Never must I stumble on a word like Margaret Atwood favorite “alacrity” (definition: brisk cheerful readiness). As a writer, though, e-books can be infuriating. Aside from the sheer economics of them (many writers I know that have both physical and e-books earn less off their digital books), there’s the black box of sales reporting. While Amazon gladly releases Bookscan data detailing physical book sales, there is no tool tallying digital downloads that can be seen by outside authors. There are apps that allow me to guess based on my hourly-changing Kindle rank what my sales are likely to be, but I do not know how accurate these are. For example, today, […]

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POV In Setting A Scene

Clouds loomed over the ocean, a gathering black mass in the darkening evening that gradually assumed the shape of a ghostly pirate ship moored to the horizon. Light crackled in the dense fog like the flash of light before cannon fire. The expected blasts never sounded. The squall, visible as day over the dark, still water, was still too far away for thunder. Lightening can be seen for fifty miles or more, though. The storm was silent. But it was coming.  If I were writing a new thriller, this is how I might describe the electrical storm my husband and I witnessed last night in the North Fork of Long Island. The tone is foreboding. The clouds are likened to a pirate ship; the lightening flashes to cannons. Pirates and war are never welcome. The POV character describing the storm is not an optimist. She or he is anticipating something bad happening. Perhaps there’s something in his or her past that explains this sense of dread. Perhaps he or she just senses something about to go awry in the future. Either way, the person seeing this storm is not in a romantic comedy. In real life, I’m in the midst of a family vacation. The worst I am expecting is a […]

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Continuing a series after the big reveal. Case Study: Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot is my favorite television show. About mid-way through the first season, writer Sam Esmail reveals–SPOILER ALERT–that the main character, Elliot, suffers from a form of schizophrenia. The protagonist, Elliot, and the antagonist, Mr. Robot, are the same person!  Some critics argued that the show would have difficulty after such a big reveal. How could Esmail ever again surprise the audience post pulling the Palahniuk card? Won’t the viewer get bored watching Elliot battle clearly defined demons?  Season two started this week and I think Esmail has answered those questions with a resounding No. As long as the characters are interesting and have new challenges that allow them to evolve, it’s easy to watch and wait for the next big reveal.  The key is the confidence the audience has in the writer to take us to new places. As Esmail wrote, “A con doesn’t work without the confidence.” And what’s a series except a long con–a story that continues to confound our expectations with each new plot twist?  

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Writer's Best Friend

Writing is a lonely job. Your only friends are the voices in your head and, if you’re a mystery writer, at least half of those voices are not the kind of people you want to encounter on the street. The other half are supremely stressed out about something dramatically awful. As a domestic suspense writer, I often feel that I spend all day sympathizing with someone who is having the worst day/week/month of their lives. It’s exhausting. And, after I’m done spending all day with my main character-in-crisis, I need time to recharge before I deal with people who expect me NOT to act like someone who has been talking to a woman running from, say, human traffickers.  Wine helps me destress. But nothing compares to my dog.  If I am writing an intense scene, my dog seems to know. He’ll come by and put his head on the knee not balancing my laptop, reminding me that no matter where I am in my head, my physical person is safe in my house with a furry companion. Petting him after a marathon writing session brings me back to reality. Walking him gets my muscles moving after sitting for hours, hunched over a laptop. Apparently, moving major muscles helps […]

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