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Cassiopeia
07-07-2007, 06:11 AM
I would like to open a discussion as to how other mystery/thriller/suspense writers are handling their stories.

What I mean by that is this:

Do you outline your story before you begin writing?

How detailed is your outline and in what format do you use?

Do you research fact or potential facts for your story?

Do you prefer a female protagonist or a male protagonist?

Is there graphic violent scenes in your story or how do you build the sense of suspense?

Do you know the ending of your story before you start writing or just winging it?

As for me, for the first time in all the years I have been writing, I am trying the outline route. It is very challenging as I do my research but helpful in keeping track of my ideas. I tend to write from the female protagonist point of view but hope to one day write one from the male point of view. I don't like graphic violence but I am considering it for this novel. I usually build suspense through dialog. And yes, I know the ending of the story which may or may not be a good thing. :D

JJ Cooper
07-07-2007, 06:35 AM
Hi Cassiopeia,




Do you outline your story before you begin writing? I didn't. This story has been in my head for years. I know it well but the more I write it the more it matures.

How detailed is your outline and in what format do you use? No outline per se. Just a few basic notes.

Do you research fact or potential facts for your story? I spent seven years as an Interrogator and my novel uses a lot of these experiences (although it is a work of fiction).

Do you prefer a female protagonist or a male protagonist? Male. My wife says I have got no idea what it's like being a female and I agree.

Is there graphic violent scenes in your story or how do you build the sense of suspense? There is some violent scenes in my novel but the key I find is not to spend much time on the descriptive horrible bits. As for suspence I am trying for tight POV to help this and dialogue.

Do you know the ending of your story before you start writing or just winging it? I thought I knew the ending but who knows where my writing will take me.



JJ

Ziljon
07-07-2007, 06:59 AM
Cassiopeia, I don't write mysteries or thrillers, but I think your question is an interesting one. I hope you don't mind if I chime in.


Do you outline your story before you begin writing? Not on paper, but I have a pretty good idea of what's going to happen.

How detailed is your outline and in what format do you use?I write my notes on a separate plain text document (I write in MS Word) and keep adding stuff as I learn it, but it's just a bunch of ideas, like: WHAT IF THE HOMUNCULUS SUCKS THE GLUE THROUGH THE CRACK?

Do you research fact or potential facts for your story? All the time, mostly online but I do much writing in the library and make full use of it. For instance, I found that some glue is indeed made from animal hide and rendered bones in the library.

Do you prefer a female protagonist or a male protagonist? I 'm more comfortable writing a male protagonist.

Is there graphic violent scenes in your story or how do you build the sense of suspense? My novels are action/adventure but I have several fights including a very violent fight between a panther and a beagle. It's moderately graphic: Then, in an instant of primal rage, Pookie reared back his head, the white, nictitating membranes of his eyes slid shut, his lips pulled back in a feral grin, and he buried his fangs into the neck of the cat. It was over.As for suspense, I think I build that by throwing up so many balls in the air that the reader wonders how they ever will all come together at the end. There's the action, and then the suspense of wondering how they will pull it off.

Do you know the ending of your story before you start writing or just winging it? I know one ending consciously, and that's how I start writing, but then the subconscious ending reveals itself and I get a wonderful thrill. At least that happened on my first novel, still waiting for it in the sequel.

Linda Adams
07-07-2007, 03:26 PM
Do you outline your story before you begin writing? How detailed is your outline and in what format do you use?


Depends on how you define outline. If you mean writing scenes down on index cards or some other format that focuses on events in the story, no. Setup was such a huge problem (it required massive revision), so I tend to focus on just working out how the first 150 pages are going to happen. If that's not working right, it ripples all the way through the end of the story.


Do you research fact or potential facts for your story?

Facts.


Do you prefer a female protagonist or a male protagonist?

Women. I've always written women characters, and even created a Nancy Drew-style detective character when I was growing up. I don't think I've ever written anything with a male character as the main character.


Is there graphic violent scenes in your story or how do you build the sense of suspense?


Mine is action-adventure, with lots and lots of action, but no blood, guts, or gore. There is a constant stage of building the action with lots and lots of action at the end (the equivelant of shooting off all the fireworks). Pacing is very important to build up to the action.


Do you know the ending of your story before you start writing or just winging it?

Only generally. It's a little to easy to write to the ending (which ends up requiring lots of complete revision) instead of making the ending fit what's been written.

reigningcatsndogs
07-08-2007, 07:16 AM
I would like to open a discussion as to how other mystery/thriller/suspense writers are handling their stories.

What I mean by that is this:

Do you outline your story before you begin writing? Sometimes yes and sometimes no, depending on how the idea comes to me. I have actually started books from deciding the outcome and working backwards, and I have started books based on a paragraph that just comes to me and I have no idea where it's going

How detailed is your outline and in what format do you use? They start off basic, but as the whole picture unfolds, they get more detailed. That's because I always throw in stuff that isn't in the original outline and then have to try and remember to clean up the details later on

Do you research fact or potential facts for your story? always

Do you prefer a female protagonist or a male protagonist? I bounce back and forth -- both have their values

Is there graphic violent scenes in your story or how do you build the sense of suspense? sometimes, out of necessity

Do you know the ending of your story before you start writing or just winging it? its about a 50/50 split for me. I either have no idea at all until I get to the end, or I knew before I started where it was going. I also cheat though, because I have readers that read and watch for continuity as I am writing and I listen to their predictions -- always a signal to change directions if they know too soon.



You guys make these questions too hard!!!! I have done this for years by myself without ever considering any of this stuff. Now I worry that I've been doing it all wrong!!:)

Cassiopeia
07-08-2007, 08:07 AM
Hey you guys,

Thanks for sharing this with me. I never thought I would be outlining a story first but I am and actually, I think in the end when I am ready to begin the writing of it, the story will simply write itself.

reigningcatsanddogs,

If it works for you, then don't listen to us. :)

A new question I wonder if any of you might know the answer to is: Can you use real names of locations and places, such as ski resorts or stores and things in your work or must you make up fictional names as well?

JJ Cooper
07-08-2007, 11:46 AM
A new question I wonder if any of you might know the answer to is: Can you use real names of locations and places, such as ski resorts or stores and things in your work or must you make up fictional names as well?

Yes you can use real locations and places, just make sure it is accurate and you don't slander them. Also it pays to ensure that it is not going to be dated ie. you mention a parking lot when in two years time (when your book comes out) it is now the site of a nightclub.

JJ

Jamesaritchie
07-08-2007, 05:48 PM
Do you outline your story before you begin writing?

God, no. I detest outlines.

How detailed is your outline and in what format do you use?

See above.

Do you research fact or potential facts for your story?

I do whatever research is needed for a given story.

Do you prefer a female protagonist or a male protagonist?

Male.

Is there graphic violent scenes in your story or how do you build the sense of suspense?

Some violence on stage, some off. Can't answer teh suspense question. Books have been written on the subject, and the question still didn't get answered. I just do it.

Do you know the ending of your story before you start writing or just winging it?

I never know the ending before I reach it, but I don't "wing" anything. There's a lot more to writing than knowing in advance or winging it. Proper structure, proper story, and proper character interaction leads everything to the right ending, and I don't need to know what that ending will be until I reach it and write it. One of the things I hate about outlines is that they usually do not allow for these things to happen. The writer determines the ending in advance, and then has to twist the story by the tail to reach this predetermined ending.

Jamesaritchie
07-08-2007, 05:52 PM
I'd also say it's a horrible idea to avoid dating your fiction. Good fiction is always, without exception, fiction that's firmly dated by location, by setting, by events, by description, by speech patterns, and by several other things. Pick up any famous mystery, and you'll probably know the date it was written before you get through chapter one.

Fiction that isn't dated is fiction set in Nowhere, No Time, USA, and darned few will be able to make heads or tails of it.

Cassiopeia
07-08-2007, 06:40 PM
Do you outline your story before you begin writing?

God, no. I detest outlines. I have to say, you made me giggle. I also have hated them but I am trying a bit of an outline this time on a story if nothing more than to keep from repeating things.


How detailed is your outline and in what format do you use? [/B]

See above.

Do you research fact or potential facts for your story?

I do whatever research is needed for a given story.

Do you prefer a female protagonist or a male protagonist?

Male.

Is there graphic violent scenes in your story or how do you build the sense of suspense?

Some violence on stage, some off. Can't answer teh suspense question. Books have been written on the subject, and the question still didn't get answered. I just do it.

Do you know the ending of your story before you start writing or just winging it?

I never know the ending before I reach it, but I don't "wing" anything. There's a lot more to writing than knowing in advance or winging it. Proper structure, proper story, and proper character interaction leads everything to the right ending, and I don't need to know what that ending will be until I reach it and write it. One of the things I hate about outlines is that they usually do not allow for these things to happen. The writer determines the ending in advance, and then has to twist the story by the tail to reach this predetermined ending. Thanks for sharing how things work for you. It is nice to have alternatives and to think about the problems that might arise from too much of an outline.


I'd also say it's a horrible idea to avoid dating your fiction. Good fiction is always, without exception, fiction that's firmly dated by location, by setting, by events, by description, by speech patterns, and by several other things. Pick up any famous mystery, and you'll probably know the date it was written before you get through chapter one.

Fiction that isn't dated is fiction set in Nowhere, No Time, USA, and darned few will be able to make heads or tails of it.I hadn't really thought about the dating your work as a problem as much as I have a concern if I actually name a place that exists and someone gets upset. I am assuming if the town is an incorporated town there is no problem.

Thanks for participating in this thread James.

Siddow
07-08-2007, 07:38 PM
Do you outline your story before you begin writing?

No. I tried it once, outlined a whole novel, but I found that when I started writing it, I easily got bored and the freshness was gone. Bleh. I'd rather find out what's going to happen as I go along.


How detailed is your outline and in what format do you use?

N/A


Do you research fact or potential facts for your story?

I tend to not worry too much about research until after a draft is done. But I will make notes on something to research while I'm writing, and look up whatever it is I need to know before I get too far in the draft and find out what I'm trying to do is impossible.



Do you prefer a female protagonist or a male protagonist?


I tend to write with mostly male protagonists. I don't know if that's because most of what I read has male MCs, or because I simply find men more interesting than women. Most of my friends have been guys.



Is there graphic violent scenes in your story or how do you build the sense of suspense?


I do a minimum of graphic violence. I prefer psychological horror and suspense. I've been told I'm good with building suspense (by an editor, not my mother), but I have no idea how to tell someone else to do it. I think it all has to do with pacing, and pulling back just at the point where things get worse and taking the reader somewhere else.



Do you know the ending of your story before you start writing or just winging it?


I start with a general sense of what I want the story to be, but often I find that things take on a life of their own and the story I end up writing is better than the one I started to write.

Cassiopeia
07-08-2007, 08:01 PM
Thanks Siddow for sharing your writing process. I know what you mean about the outline potentially making the actual writing of the story boring. I am trying not to get too detailed about it, yet I hope for the structure. I still don't have an ending and I am not sure I am going to worry about it. :D

Claudia Gray
07-08-2007, 08:07 PM
I would like to open a discussion as to how other mystery/thriller/suspense writers are handling their stories.

What I mean by that is this:

Do you outline your story before you begin writing?

Yes -- I always do but think it's even more helpful to me with the thriller, which depends very strongly on a tight plot.


How detailed is your outline and in what format do you use?

Right now it's a 30-chapter breakdown, about a paragraph per chapter. It will get more detailed than that before I embark on the writing full-out (about another two months).


Do you research fact or potential facts for your story?

Absolutely! Locations, language questions (some characters are Russian, others French), spy techniques (although this is more "spy-fi" than Le Carre territory) and other bits of detail that, so far, have included factions at work in the Bolsheviks in the early 20th century, big country music hits in the early 1980s and skydiving techniques.


Do you prefer a female protagonist or a male protagonist?

I don't prefer either, but my protagonist is female. That said, her male partner is equally significant to the plot -- but it's all from her POV.


Is there graphic violent scenes in your story or how do you build the sense of suspense?

I'll know about the suspsense when I dig into it more. As for graphic violence -- probably not much, though I would use that if I needed it for the story. This is more about suspense than violence, though.


Do you know the ending of your story before you start writing or just winging it?



I'm one of those who has to know the ending. I tend to fall in love with my endings, so the writing process becomes all about getting to that really rewarding close.

Cassiopeia
07-08-2007, 10:42 PM
Claudia,
Awesome post! Very helpful too. :D The current novel I am working on is more thriller and suspense and I am having to outline for the first time because as you say it needs to be tight and I don't want to lose that.

Thanks for participating :) I am really enjoying everyone's input.

You guys rock!

reigningcatsndogs
07-08-2007, 11:39 PM
I've been told I'm good with building suspense (by an editor, not my mother), but I have no idea how to tell someone else to do it.

I could write words on a roll of toilet paper, using a poop pen and my mother would think it was magnificent!!:roll: There seems to be something about mothers.

Memo to me -- remove the line about my mother liking the work from my last query letter!!!

Ziljon
07-09-2007, 02:41 AM
Anyone know where I can buy a poop pen? New, if not too expensive.

Cassiopeia
07-09-2007, 04:11 AM
I think a Poop pen can be found under Thriller. It has to be something disgusting and very scary right? :D

reigningcatsndogs
07-09-2007, 04:26 AM
Check with Seun in the Office Party -- she had the poop market cornered last week!!!

reigningcatsndogs
07-09-2007, 04:33 AM
Claudia,
The current novel I am working on is more thriller and suspense and I am having to outline for the first time because as you say it needs to be tight and I don't want to lose that.


I have tried to not use an outline, and often I start without one, but as the plot becomes more intricate I find I need it just to maintain some continuity. Also, I get so many interruptions that I need something to keep me on track, and when I have more than one novel on the go, it's a must for me. That said, I don't always stick to the outline, and I have yet to not get 75% done and then totally rewrite the outline for the last 25%. I also clearly mark major time changes, ie morning day 1 (depending of course on what your time frame is), again for continuity.

kristie911
07-09-2007, 06:26 AM
Do you outline your story before you begin writing?
I didn't (this is my first foray into thriller/mystery writing) but I have a pretty definite idea in my head of where it's going.

Do you research fact or potential facts for your story?
I've done a crap load of research for this book because my MC is a veteran and I need to get my timeline right. It's been a huge pain in the ass! :)

Do you prefer a female protagonist or a male protagonist?
Male

Is there graphic violent scenes in your story or how do you build the sense of suspense? There really haven't been yet, other than 2 murder scenes and I didn't get too graphic. But there will be a couple of scenes later, I haven't decided how graphic I'll get. I want suspense but not necessarily graphic. I'll just have to see what's required when I get there!

Do you know the ending of your story before you start writing or just winging it? I'm winging some of it but I have a pretty good idea where I'm headed.

Cassiopeia
07-09-2007, 11:01 AM
I have tried to not use an outline, and often I start without one, but as the plot becomes more intricate I find I need it just to maintain some continuity. Also, I get so many interruptions that I need something to keep me on track, and when I have more than one novel on the go, it's a must for me. That said, I don't always stick to the outline, and I have yet to not get 75% done and then totally rewrite the outline for the last 25%. I also clearly mark major time changes, ie morning day 1 (depending of course on what your time frame is), again for continuity.This is similar to what happened to me with my first novel. I didn't outline or even do a simple map, I just wrote and I started to go through it to outline it and what a mess. So I just decided let me start on another story that isn't that outdated and come back to that one if I ever do.

This one is in the outlining stages and it is going very well. Much better and easier than I thought. :)