A novel career: how to write an action/suspense/crime novel
From Sandy Paull, author
Anyone with a creative mind knows it doesn’t take much to get the brain cells multiplying, especially when a challenge comes their way. For me, writing an action/crime/suspense novel is my happy place, and I am pleased to have found it after all these years of raising a family and working various jobs. All it takes to get me started is a word, a sentence, or an observation, and the rest is history. There are many paths to take when outlining a plot, or plots, and so many characters to create, but sometimes, there just aren’t enough hours in a day to rattle my keyboard.
My initial plan is to jot down plot points in a notepad, sometimes compiling pages and pages of notes during a couple of hours, and then draft a manuscript on my laptop. I develop characters and traits, and timelines of the crimes being committed, but sometimes it doesn’t work out as first planned. My mind might have been stuck on a thought, and while it’s there, I concentrate all my efforts on creating dialogue to go with the scene. From there, I can work either way, and sometimes find myself back at the beginning adding something new. For me, there is no rule of thumb when it comes to writing. It’s not imperative for me to start at the start with every story.
Mystery movies, and authors like Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock, have always intrigued and inspired me and, to this day, I analyse movies in my head for many hours after watching them. I like to know the where’s and how-to’s of a supposed crime that has been committed, and fully expect my audience to do the same when reading the twists and turns in my novels.
I draw on my accomplishments in life, whether it be gymnastics, various sporting activities, martial arts, or one of the many things of little or no consequence to anyone else but me, when thinking up a believable storyline. And sometimes it’s good to think outside the square so that my characters’ actions surprise the reader.
In my stories, you will find all kinds of weapons, and there’s nothing like getting first-hand experience, feeling the recoil of a shotgun on your shoulder, or lining up a target with a shanghai and releasing the elastic band. It gives you a new perspective and appreciation for how to describe action scenes. Several years ago, I discovered my enjoyment of archery but as yet haven’t found a way to weave a bow and arrow into an inner city crime scene.
Short sentences help create suspense and anticipation, and I employ them whenever there is confrontation, which is typically every other page in my novels. My goal is to have my readers empathise with the protagonist, and at the same time despise the antagonist. The result I’m looking for is to have the reader wanting to keep turning page after page, seeking resolution.
I tend to model some of the traits of my leading lady on myself, knowing what it feels like to step out of my comfort zone, and to be able to multitask when under pressure. As for the male roles, I picture well-known actors playing their parts, and envisage how they would deal with a situation, whether it be good or bad.
Several months later, the story is usually completed, and the next leg of the journey starts with editing, proofreading, cover design, and publishing. It’s generally during this process I feel a sense of satisfaction tinged with a little sadness that it is all nearly over. The best thing of all is when the first carton of print books arrive at home, and I can physically hold my new creation.
The sense of achievement continues every single time I receive reviews and/or feedback from anyone who has read the book. But the work isn’t over just yet as marketing and promotions need to continue… but that’s another story!