I’m at a crossroads in my writing.  Recently, I completed the revision on my first novel, a psychological thriller set in the countryside.   I think the editor will read it next month. In the meantime, I’m reworking my second novel.

The second novel deals with flashbacks and repressed memories of a childhood event, but for some reason, the novel has always lacked the smooth flow required for a compelling story, although one avid reader of crime fiction described it as “very exciting.”   I would agree that some of the sections are well written, but not presented in the right order.  Too many memories too early on, preventing the main story from unfolding  in the present.

In tackling the story, I hope to get straight into the head of the central character and find out what he most desires and most fears.  I’ve also changed the location to a particularly bleak place in the north of England to allow for intensity and greater atmosphere – and, of course, a bit of dialectic dialogue.  I already feel that the novel is in better shape.

Some thoughts on writing emotionally gripping drama

  • Choose subjects you feel passionate about
  • Don’t hold back from writing about topics that make you feel uncomfortable (unless the writing causes you to wince from embarrassment)
  • Concentrate on projecting the story
  • Don’t get too sidetracked by so-called rules.  I’ve heard aspiring novelists say that a new viewpoint should start in a new chapter –  but many good stories don’t adhere to this
  • Have fun with the story
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7 thoughts on “Novel Writing: Emotionally Gripping Drama

  1. I was very happy to stumble upon your blog today! I just finished a very rough draft of a first novel and needed some ideas I can incorporate when editing and fleshing it out. Good luck with novel #2, would like to hear more.

  2. Points to consider:

    Since the memories are repressed in nature, they could be considered not trustworthy. Perhaps if there is a recurring “dream” or thought that seems to be the same but changes a detail here or there might add to the suspense for the reader.

    In such a thriller, might a skewed chronology add to the ominous feeling? I think of crime films like “Pulp Fiction” in which the chronology is out of sequence or “Memento” by Christopher Nolan or the play “Betrayal” by Harold Pinter in which reverse chronology is used. These works throw the viewer/reader off by virtue of playing with their expectations.

    In your earlier entry “A Second Novel” you referenced “too much cut and pasting scenes” and then you referenced concetrating on scenes rather than chapters. In a kind of Dadaist way, that may be the solution: create the scenes but then cut and paste them for a more jarring emotional effect.

    From your description it sounds like a worthwhile story. i’m sure you’ll get a handle on it.

  3. Thanks, tikiman. Good point about repressed memories not being trustworthy.

    tsuchigari, thanks for your kind words. All the best with the draft of your first novel.

  4. Thought-provoking post and comments. You offer a helpful list of tips. Most important may be the last one, which is to have fun. Thanks, Lawrence

  5. You have a very interesting thread going on here, Lawrence.

    I am reading (or rather beginning) The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo. Anyone read it? I am having a hard time getting past the first chapters for the reasons you list here. WAY too much backstory (so much info that at this point I really don’t care about). I am actually skpipping pages just to move the story along. I also find there are too many characters early on, and too many POV shifts. Yet, the book has received great reviews, so I am hoping the tension and suspense is coming….

    And yes, have fun!! 🙂

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