Karalee’s Post #7 — Ooooooo… Halloween time again. What’s the intrigue? Is it the free candy? The spookiness? Or is it the hiding in plain sight? All three are worth getting costumed up for, but I bet the thrill comes from “being” someone or something else, even if only for a few hours.
Author and founder of our writing group, Sean Slater, literally has his villain hide in plain sight in his book The Survivor during the Parade of Lost Souls in Vancouver, Canada. For me the book is extra special. Not only do I know the author, it is so cool to read a thriller set in my own city and being able to follow (in my mind) the cop cars chasing down streets in my neighbourhood. Reading the book felt far more intimate than if it was set in places like New York or London (even though I’ve visited both but not lived there).
For me it’s because my own experience fills in the five senses. If you live in Vancouver you feel what a rainy day is: its dampness; the smell of moss and mustiness; the grey skies hoarding the mountains; the wet dogs and children splashing in puddles, etc. The sound of traffic is louder and the pounding of rain on the roof can be soothing, or annoying if it drips off a crack in the eaves. And if it’s a sunny day in winter, you truly enjoy it because the rain will be back.
So, how does a writer give all this visceral experience to readers unfamiliar with the setting? Pages of explaining can’t do justice to actually living in the place, not even 100,000 words, but if you make your characters experience the setting using all their senses, the reader can “be” there too.
Now back to Halloween. What’s the thrill of hiding? We seem to crave it as children. Who hasn’t played hours or days of Hide-and-Seek? I can still feel my heart pounding while standing in a dark closet or lying under the bed waiting to be caught. At first I wouldn’t want to be found, but if I hid too well the game went lame and the other players would give up.
Now doesn’t that sound like the challenge of writing a novel? How does the author build suspense and follow it through to a satisfying conclusion?
At the beginning our characters start off unknown, as though fully masked. The author reveals a little bit at a time to intrigue the reader and have him/her relate to the characters. If too much is told up front there’s not much left to discover. If there’s not enough revealed along the way, the characters’ actions may seem unrealistic.
It’s a balance. But where’s the thrill?
The reader needs to be entertained. That means being emotionally involved and being in the closet with the protagonist knowing the villain is in the house hunting her down. The protagonist must survive if the book continues. And even more, once the reader feels the thrill, he/she wants it again and again.
Suspense. Climax. Survival.
Suspense. Climax. Survival.
And just writing this I can feel the thrill of Hide-and-Seek, not only hiding, but being found, and then racing against my assailant to touch the designated spot in the house that keeps me safe. For me, this is an epiphany, a feeling I want in my writing; a goal to reach two or three times before the last major climax where my protagonist truly must run the race of her life.
I can’t wait to get it all down in writing.
I’ll be interrupted tonight when the ghosts and goblins arrive at my home. But this year when I open the door to the dressed up creatures I will be more in tune with their feelings.
Especially the ones hidden in plain sight.