So you can read my books

Thursday, April 19, 2018

What keeps you turning the PAGE? _ A TO Z

“There is no terror in the bang,
 only in the anticipation of it.” 
- Alfred Hitchcock

Ghost of Alfred Hitchcock here

Twenty-eight of my movies were derived from novels.  

You might think of that as "Dial L for Literature."

I so enjoyed the works of British author Daphne Du Maurier, 

I based three of my films on two of her novels,  

Jamaica Inn and Rebecca and one short story, The Birds.

Too many look at a French novelist's name and imagine men at street cafes, 

wearing berets, smoking French cigarettes, and staring off into the distance 

as if searching for that abyss of which Sartre and Nietzsche wrote.

Please do rise above that provinciality and dare her work.  

You will be rewarded with fine storytelling.


It can all be reduced to one word:


The reader fears that something terrible is going to happen to a character for whom she has grown to care.

 Mystery is the hook.  Yet, mystery is an intellectual process. 

 Suspense is essentially an emotional one.


Fear isn't so difficult to understand. After all, weren't we all frightened as children? 

Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood faced the big bad wolf. 

What frightens us today is exactly the same sort of thing that frightened us yesterday. 

It's just a different wolf

This fright complex is rooted in every individual.


The fear of being helpless in face of danger is universal and so can evoke empathy in the reader.

Take this  scene - 

A young girl gasping for breath inside an oxygen tent.  

She speaks to the icily beautiful woman standing by the oxygen pump.

"I will never call you mother.  You've fooled everyone else.  But not me."

The cool blonde smiles slightly as the young girl continues.

"Deep inside you there is someone terrible that no one else knows about."

The step-mother leans forward as she slowly turns off the oxygen and smiles wider.

"Now, I have everyone fooled."

As a good story-teller you will, of course, come up with a realistic way for which the young girl to survive.

But from that moment on, the reader will be bonded to your heroine. 


If you can keep the reader asking that question at the end of every page, 

you have succeeded in creating suspense.

It is the story-teller's primary function to create a living emotion.  

His secondary function is to sustain it.

What many fledgling authors do not understand is 

that the more successful your villain is, the more successful your novel will be.

Your antagonist must win at every turn.

Like a dinosaur caught in a tar pit, 

your protagonist must sink deeper into the trap with each attempt to escape it.

Your antagonist must be frustratingly urbane, intelligent,  resourceful, 

able to mingle with her victim's associates without arousing suspicion. 

If you craft your antagonist well enough, many of your readers will fantasize being him or her.

A woman who spends all day washing and cooking and ironing 

doesn't want  to watch a film or read a novel about a woman who spends all day washing and cooking and ironing.

I hope this has helped in some small way.

Now, I must be off.

I see the ghost of Lovecraft drifting my way,
and I scare so easily. 


  1. As a young kid in Bossier City the birds had a profound effect on my life. Not because I believed the birds we're going to run amok and turn on us all, I knew better or did I? While taking a walk in the early-mid sixties, I came up on a kid who had stoned a pigeon! Such horrified me more than the movie. The Young boy believed the birds we're going to kill us all. He lacked the information.

    Tippi Hedron called the making of the birds the worst week in her life

    Coming full circle in 1975, my buddy and I dug postholes for Lion pastures at her Shambhala Ranch but 30 miles from here.

    In my life there has never been more a grand moment than having a golden eagle and or a California condor swooping overhead by 10 to 20 feet. A moment of divine splendor! No bird attacks yet. ;-)

    1. I love watching the egrets, gulls, and hawks fly over head as I drive the high bridge over Lake Charles!

    2. Seriously miss the blue egrets pulling crawfish out of the Mounds in our back pasture in Lake Charles. I will never forget being stuck up on the 210 Bridge at the peak, during a 60 mile per hour tropical storm/wind. The bridge was packed with vehicles all stuck in park. While awaiting ambulances to snake their way to the top... I thought my truck was going to blow right over the railings edge.

  2. Good tips...I need to try more villainy in my villains. Since I write whodunits, it's a bit harder to do without giving the "who" away.

    Donna B. McNicol|Author and Traveler
    A to Z Flash Fiction Stories | A to Z of Goldendoodles

    1. Donna, you could make the murders done in a cruel, bold way, mocking the police. Thanks for liking my post!

  3. Hitchcock is a favourite, and he was a master of suspense. Good reminders in this post Roland! 'Birds' is one movie that stays with you, and the bird attacks are hard to forget.

    1. I remembering watching it in the movie theater during a revival of the movie. Brrr! In a dark theater, that movie really got to me!! :-)