I’ve been recording readings of short stories and extracts of my work to SoundCloud. You don’t need an account to listen. I’ve recently added one of my longer and earlier short stories, which you can download as an eBook.
Set in Jaipur, India, this story reveals the hidden tensions in the mind of a young boy as he has to let go of the girl he loves for an unknown young bride, chosen by his parents. As the wedding day approaches, will he be able to follow his parents’ wishes in the face of his passion and quiet desperation?
“The title of this book is very rich in symbolism, and the story true depth. Two young hearts filled with a love that can never be, left facing a life of emptiness they have not chosen. It is easy to imagine their hearts left broken and bleeding. These two young people have no choice but to be obedient to their families and their traditional ways of life. The first line of the story reads: “Her, sari, the colour of blood, caught the breeze as she turned and walked away”. He knows that is the last memory he will ever have of the love of his life and is prepared to carry it forever. What a stunning start to a story! This story continues so full of emotion and is delicately written. It was very easy to empathize with the character right at the start. It takes a great talent to drag me in so quickly. I felt the pain as he did. This book can turn even the most hardened bachelor into a romantic! The story may be short, but the memory will last on.”
Plot is arguably one of the most important elements of fiction writing – from it stems, the characters, the mood, the pace. It sets the scene for the whole tone of a fiction novel, so it’s important to get it right. When you’re writing crime or thriller novels, it is absolutely key, and there are ways of raising the stakes to keep your reader hooked.
Put your characters in a challenging environment or physical danger.
Introduce vulnerabilities and character flaws.
Create secondary characters to add new tensions to the plot.
Allow tension to ebb and flow.
Create obstacles and conflict between characters.
Keep raising the stakes.
Make the viewer (reader) ask questions.
Create internal and external conflict.
Leave things unresolved until close to the end.
Remind the reader of the stakes.
The plot hinges on a Detective Chief Inspector Amy Silva (played by Suranne Jones). DCI Silva works for the Scottish Police Service and is sent to HMS Vigil, a Trident nuclear submarine, by helicopter for three days, at first, to investigate. Shortly after the mysterious disappearance of a Scottish fishing trawler, a member of the crew on Vigil is murdered, and DCI Silver has been sent to investigate. The series takes viewers on a journey into a world of submarine warfare and security threats.[Skip ahead to the next paragraph to avoid a plot spoiler] Having lost her husband in a car crash, where the car is submerged in water, Amy manages to rescue only her daughter. She suffers from flash-backs, depression and anxiety, for which she is taking medication.
Much like Carrie, in Homeland (a highly-skilled, but bipolar CIA operative), it’s this vulnerability that makes Silver so likeable and her achievements all the more impressive as the plot unfold (see no. 2 in raising the stakes). Finding character flaws and vulnerabilities draws the reader to the character. The human need to connect through vulnerability is best illustrated in Brené Brown’s TEDxHouston Talk, The Power of Vulnerability. In this twenty minute TED talk, she describes vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure, but says that vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage. It’s this courage, despite character flaws and vulnerabilities, that makes the best protagonists so appealing and keeps viewers and readers hooked.
DCI Silver’s investigations, along with her team on land, create conflict between the police, the Royal Navy and MI5 (see no.5 in the list of raising the stakes). She is in a challenging physical environment (see no.1) in a confined space, away from her daughter, her normal routine and recent partner, DS Kirsten Longacre (Rose Leslie), leaving her conflicted.
While there were a few plot holes and inconsistencies in places, it was a gripping series, with tensions ramping up towards the end. The finale provided both the tension and resolution that viewers were hoping for, with some impressive redemptive qualities.
You can find out more about plot, tension and story arcs, from several of my other posts (links below):
Disney’s much hyped adaptation of Beauty and the Beast was released at the weekend. The film broke box office records with an estimated $170 million, making it the seventh largest opening weekend of all time. It’s a story that engages your emotions and keeps you hooked to the end. I was discussing the film with someone today who wanted to go and see it. She said it was her favourite fairytale and we were talking about what makes this particular story stand out. It occurred to me that part of the pull is the constant tension throughout the story, the conflict of interests, and the fact that the Beast is somehow flawed as a love match for Belle.
We all know the plot – an arrogant young prince and his servants fall under the spell of a enchantress, who turns him into the Beast until he learns to love and be loved in return. The headstrong village girl Belle enters the Beast’s castle after he imprisons her father Maurice. With the help of his servants, Belle begins to draw the cold-hearted Beast out of his isolation.
There is a tension between Gaston’s claims that he will marry Belle, and her desire for independence and dislike of his puffed up ego. Part of her appeal is the fact that she doesn’t want a relationship and is a strong and independent girl. She loves books, loves her father and, unlike the other girls in the village, refuses to fall for Gaston’s false charm. There is a tension between either Belle or her father being held prisoner in the tower.
There are obstacles in the way, in the form of wolves, Gaston, the villagers when they storm the castle, Belle’s need to rescue her father, and the Beast’s appearance and initial hostility. Every time you come up for air, another obstacle presents itself. Life can feel like this at times, but it is used as part of a plot to ramp up the tension and keep the viewer engaged and rooting for the main characters.
The fact that the Beast sees himself as unlovable and flawed because of the curse put on him, appeals to us because most of us feel flawed in some way, however big or small, aware of our less-than-perfect self. Yet, he wins her affection despite his appearance, which has kept him in his tower. It is in part because of this that we want their relationship to work.
I want to leave you with one of the highlights of the film…the library!