The Thrill of Suspense

Suspense is a narrative tool that has captivated readers for centuries. It’s the art of withholding information, creating tension, and keeping readers on the edge of their seats, eagerly turning pages to uncover the mysteries that lie within a story. From classic thrillers to modern crime novels, suspense is a literary device that engages readers’ minds and emotions, inviting them into a world of uncertainty and intrigue.

The Thrill of Uncertainty

At the heart of suspense lies uncertainty—a deliberate manipulation of what readers know and what they don’t. As readers, we yearn for resolution, for answers to questions posed by the narrative. Suspense however, offers these answers as elusive prizes, skillfully keeping them just out of reach. Uncertainty creates an irresistible tension, compelling readers to unravel the narrative’s secrets.

By planting seeds of doubt and curiosity, authors provoke readers to engage with the story on a deeper level. Suspense forces us to think, to speculate, and to analyse, creating an active reading experience that transcends the mere consumption of words.

Building a Web of Questions

A well-crafted suspense story is like a carefully woven web of questions, each thread leading to another. These questions range from the mundane to the profound, from “Who committed the crime?” to “What is the truth behind this character’s motives?” The gradual revelation of answers keeps readers invested, eager to see the web unravel and the narrative puzzle come together.

Agatha Christie’s mystery novels, such as “Murder on the Orient Express,” exemplify this approach. Each character is a potential suspect, each action a clue, and each revelation a piece of the puzzle. The layers of intrigue build upon one another, creating a tapestry of suspense that engages readers’ analytical skills.

Tension as the Driving Force

Suspense thrives on tension—an emotional state that propels readers forward, eager to uncover the next plot twist. Tension arises from conflict, whether it’s the clash of personalities, the looming threat of danger, or the anticipation of a shocking revelation. By creating tension, authors hold readers captive, ensuring that they remain invested in the story’s outcome.

In psychological thrillers like Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,” tension is heightened through unreliable narrator, shifting perspectives, and a constant sense of unease. As readers navigate conflicting accounts and hidden agendas, they become emotionally entangled in the characters’ web of deception.

Timing and Pacing

The art of suspense lies not only in what information is revealed but also in when it’s revealed. Timing and pacing are crucial elements that determine the ebb and flow of tension throughout a narrative. Well-timed reveals can lead to a surge of shock or realisation, while deliberately withheld information can sustain the suspense until the perfect moment.

Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense in cinema, once said, “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” His films, such as “Psycho,” showcase his understanding of how to manipulate pacing to keep audiences on the edge of their seats, heightening the emotional impact of each revelation.

The Power of Misdirection

Misdirection is a powerful tool in the suspense writer’s arsenal. By diverting readers’ attention and planting red herrings, authors can lead them down unexpected paths, only to reveal a surprising twist later on. Misdirection keeps readers guessing, ensuring that the resolution remains elusive until the final pages.

In “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins, multiple narrators provide conflicting perspectives, casting doubt on the reliability of each account. This clever use of misdirection keeps readers second-guessing the truth, making the ultimate revelation all the more impactful.

The Connection to Empathy

Effective suspense isn’t just about plot twists—it’s also about emotional engagement. Suspense relies on readers’ empathy for the characters, their hopes and fears, and their investment in their fates. When readers care deeply about the characters’ outcomes, the stakes are raised, and the tension becomes even more palpable.

In Stephen King’s “Misery,” a writer is held captive by his obsessed fan. The reader’s empathy for the protagonist’s plight amplifies the suspense, as they fear for his safety and root for his escape. This emotional connection intensifies the impact of every nail-biting moment.

The Balance Between Revelation and Concealment

While suspense is rooted in concealing information, it’s also dependent on perfect revelation. Too much secrecy can frustrate readers, while too much information can deflate the tension. Striking the right balance is an art, as authors must provide enough clues and hints to keep readers engaged without giving away the entire puzzle.

Donna Tartt’s ‘The Secret History’, Donna Tartt uses multiple narrative layers and perspectives to slowly unveil the layers of the characters’ personalities and the events leading up to the murder. The novel is filled with unexpected twists and revelations, but it also withholds crucial information at strategic points to maintain tension and mystery.

The Joy of Discovery

Ultimately, the thrill of suspense lies in the joy of discovery. The moment a reader uncovers a hidden truth, deciphers a cryptic clue, or unravels a complex mystery is immensely satisfying. It’s the culmination of tension and curiosity, a reward for the reader’s active engagement with the narrative.

As readers, we become detectives, piecing together the puzzle as we navigate the twists and turns of the story. The act of discovery becomes a participatory experience, fostering a sense of accomplishment and connection with the narrative.

In Conclusion: Crafting the Perfect Balance

Suspense is a literary tightrope act, where authors carefully balance revelation and concealment, tension and release. It’s a dance of uncertainty that keeps readers engrossed, their imaginations engaged, and their emotions invested. Through the art of suspense, authors transport us to worlds of intrigue, inviting us to decipher secrets, confront challenges, and experience the thrill of the unknown.

Are you a writer of suspense of other genres? Want to meet up with like minded people in a relaxed, setting?Feel free to join our fortnightly (free) writers meetup, upstairs at North Bar in Harrogate. you can also sign up to our newsletter to keep updated on our meetups, events and courses, or find out more about our individual development services for scripts, screenplays and novels.

Love in Ink: Considerations For Writing Romance

Love, with its intricate web of emotions, desires, and vulnerabilities, has been a timeless muse for artists and writers alike. Within the vast realm of literature, the genre of romance serves as a canvas where authors paint the rich tapestry of human connections. However, beneath the surface of passion and longing lies a complex landscape that demands careful navigation. Writing romance is an art that requires an understanding of emotions, character dynamics, and the delicate balance between realism and idealism.

The Spectrum of Emotions

At the heart of any romance story lies a spectrum of emotions—love, desire, longing, heartache, and joy. Writers need to try to capture these feelings with nuance, allowing readers to resonate with the characters’ experiences. The success of a romance narrative hinges on the authenticity of these emotions, drawing readers into a world where they can empathise, reflect, and connect.

From the electric thrill of a first glance to the quiet ache of unrequited love, the emotional landscape of a romance  is as varied as the human experience itself. Skillful writers tap into their own emotional reservoirs, channeling them into characters who become vessels for universal feelings that readers can relate to.

The Complexity of Characters

Truly compelling romance narratives are built on multidimensional characters who transcend stereotypes and clichés. Characters in a romance story must have their own goals, motivations, fears, and flaws. These traits shape their interactions and drive the plot forward. The complexities of their personalities mirror the complexities of real-life relationships.

Readers are drawn to characters who feel real, characters who grapple with insecurities, make mistakes, and learn and grow from their experiences. A well-rounded character is not just defined by their romantic connection but by their individuality and agency.

Balancing Chemistry and Realism

Chemistry between characters is at the heart of any romance narrative. Whether it’s the slow burn of a simmering attraction or the fiery intensity of instant connection, writers must carefully construct scenes that showcase the evolving dynamics between characters. Dialogue, gestures, and shared experiences all contribute to building this connection. However, while chemistry is essential, it must be grounded in realism. Characters’ interactions should be authentic and avoid veering into melodrama or contrivance. Real relationships involve moments of tension, misunderstanding, and compromise. Capturing these moments of vulnerability adds depth and relatability to the romance.

Subverting Expectations

Romance, like any genre, can benefit from subversion and innovation. While readers enjoy familiar tropes, they also appreciate unexpected twists that challenge conventions. Subverting expectations can breathe new life into romance narratives and surprise readers, keeping them engaged and invested.

For example, exploring non-traditional relationship dynamics or defying gender norms can offer fresh perspectives on love. Authors like Rainbow Rowell (“Eleanor & Park”) and Casey McQuiston (“Red, White & Royal Blue”) have embraced these subversions, delivering stories that resonate with contemporary audiences.

Themes Beyond Romance

Effective romance narratives often weave themes that transcend the boundaries of romantic relationships. Themes of self-discovery, identity, family, and personal growth enrich the narrative and provide characters with layers of complexity. These themes resonate with readers on a deeper level, inviting them to explore their own lives and values.

In “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, the romance between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy is interwoven with themes of social class, societal expectations, and the importance of self-awareness. By addressing these broader themes, the romance becomes a vehicle for examining larger cultural and philosophical questions.

Dialogue as a Window to the Heart

In romance writing, dialogue serves as a window to characters’ emotions, thoughts, and desires. The conversations between characters reveal their chemistry, their conflicts, and the intimacy they share. Writers must craft dialogue that is authentic and meaningful, reflecting the unique voices of their characters.

Well-written dialogue also showcases subtext—what characters aren’t saying is often as important as what they are. Subtle cues, hidden meanings, and unspoken tensions add layers of depth to the narrative, allowing readers to decipher the emotions simmering beneath the surface.

Navigating Intimacy

Romance often involves physical and emotional intimacy, and navigating these moments with sensitivity and respect is crucial. Intimacy scenes should serve the characters’ emotional arcs and not be gratuitous. When executed well, these scenes can be powerful tools for revealing vulnerabilities and deepening the connection between characters.

However, the portrayal of intimacy must prioritise consent, agency, and emotional resonance. Writers must approach these scenes with care, ensuring that they contribute to the characters’ growth and the progression of the story.

The Balance of Realism and Idealism

Romance writing strikes a delicate balance between realism and idealism. While real relationships are marked by imperfections and challenges, romance narratives often offer readers a sense of hope and fulfilment. Balancing the gritty realities of love with the enchantment of idealised connections is an art in itself.

Writers must acknowledge the struggles and conflicts that come with relationships while also allowing readers to experience the joy and satisfaction of seeing characters find love. The idealised elements of romance serve as a form of escapism, offering readers a respite from the complexities of everyday life.

 Crafting the Language of Love

Writing romance is a nuanced craft that delves into the intricate world of human emotions and connections. It’s about capturing the essence of love—the yearning, the vulnerability, and the transformative power it holds. Through multidimensional characters, authentic emotions, and thoughtful storytelling, authors navigate the complexities of romance to create narratives that resonate deeply with readers.

As writers, we have the privilege of exploring the different shades of love, from the passionate to the profound. By mastering the art of love in ink, we invite readers to embark on a journey of emotions, a journey that reminds us of the beauty and complexity of the human heart.

Here are a list of iconic books and iconic films, who nail the genre

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  3. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  4. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  6. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  7. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  8. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  9. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  10. Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman
  11. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  12. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  13. The Princess Bride (1987) – Directed by Rob Reiner
  14. Before Sunrise (1995) – Directed by Richard Linklater
  15. La La Land (2016) – Directed by Damien Chazelle
  16. The Fault in Our Stars (2014) – Directed by Josh Boone
  17. Notting Hill (1999) – Directed by Roger Michell
  18. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – Directed by Michel Gondry
  19. The Princess Diaries (2001) – Directed by Garry Marshall
  20. Casablanca (1942) – Directed by Michael Curtiz
  21. 500 Days of Summer (2009) – Directed by Marc Webb
  22. Silver Linings Playbook (2012) – Directed by David O. Russell
  23. Her (2013) – Directed by Spike Jonze
  24. The Shape of Water (2017) – Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Are you a writer of romance of other genres? Want to meet up with like minded people in a relaxed, setting?Feel free to join our fortnightly (free) writers meetup, upstairs at North Bar in Harrogate. you can also sign up to our newsletter to keep updated on our meetups, events and courses, or find out more about our individual development services for scripts, screenplays and novels.

Rewriting History: Giving Alternate Realities a Literary Twist

In the vast realm of storytelling, short stories stand as unique gems that captivate readers with their brevity and depth. These compact narratives have the remarkable ability to transport us to different dimensions of imagination, capturing emotions, characters, and scenes within limited word counts. While many writers throw their hands up at a compact word limit, we think there is lots to love about these little narrative nuggets.

The Art of Condensation

Short stories are like poetry in prose, distilling the essence of a larger tale into a condensed form that demands precision and economy of words. Try not to think of this compression as restricting creativity; instead, consider it an opportunity to choose each word carefully, ensuring that every sentence contributes to the narrative’s impact.

Think of a short story as a snapshot—a single, evocative moment that lingers in the reader’s mind. This limitation challenges authors to convey a complete arc, from introduction to climax to resolution, within a confined space. Consider it the literary equivalent of painting an intricate masterpiece on a small canvas, where every brushstroke must carry meaning.

Creating Vivid Characters in Limited Space

The characters in a short story are the heartbeats that make the narrative come alive. Unlike in novels, where authors can dedicate pages to character development, short story writers must forge a connection between readers and characters fast, and with maximum impact.

Consider the power of small gestures, quirks, or carefully chosen lines of dialogue. Can you give your character a way of speaking that leaves them etched in a readers mind? Using a few carefully chosen words, it’s possible to reveal a character’s fears, dreams, and vulnerabilities. Readers should feel like they’ve known these characters for ages, even if they’ve only spent a handful of paragraphs with them.

The Mastery of Endings

Crafting a satisfying ending is an art form in itself, and short stories demand an even greater level of finesse. Concluding a story within a limited word count requires a balance between closure and lingering questions, leaving readers both satiated and contemplative.

A powerful ending can resonate for days, making readers reflect on the story’s themes and implications. It might be a shocking twist, a bittersweet revelation, or an open-ended question that lingers like a haunting memory.

The Unseen World Between the Lines

Short stories are a playground for subtext and symbolism. In their brevity, they encourage authors to weave layers of meaning beneath the surface narrative. Every object, every interaction, every choice—these elements can carry weight far beyond their literal interpretations.

The reader’s mind becomes an active participant in uncovering these hidden meanings. Through implication and suggestion, authors guide readers toward a deeper understanding of the story’s themes and messages. It’s a dance between what’s said and what’s left unsaid—a dance that can lead to profound revelations.

Embracing the Unknown

One of the most thrilling aspects of reading short stories is their ability to surprise. Within a few pages, readers can be transported to fantastical worlds, introduced to unconventional characters, and thrown into unexpected situations.

Short stories encourage authors to experiment, to break away from conventions, and to explore uncharted territories. They invite us to experience the unfamiliar and expand our literary horizons.

The Reader’s Role

Reading a short story is a collaborative act. The author provides the framework—the words on the page—but it’s the reader’s imagination that breathes life into the narrative. Short stories invite readers to fill in the gaps, to visualise settings, to hear characters’ voices, and to feel the atmosphere.

This interplay between the written word and the reader’s mind results in a deeply personal and interactive reading experience. Each reader brings their unique perspective, enriching the story with their own emotions and interpretations.

The Lasting Impact

Despite their brevity, short stories often leave an indelible mark on readers. A well-crafted short story can haunt your thoughts for days, even weeks or years, after reading. Its impact lingers, like the faint echoes of a beautiful melody.

In a world where time is a precious commodity, short stories provide an easy escape that fits into the busiest of schedules. They offer a moment of reflection, a brief journey into another world, and a chance to experience the magic of storytelling in its most distilled and potent form.

In the realm of literature, short stories are not diminutive versions of longer narratives; they are a distinct and potent form of art. Their brevity challenges authors to create worlds that resonate deeply within constrained spaces. They invite readers to partake in the creative process, and their impact is felt long after the words have been read.

So, whether you’re a writer seeking to hone your skills or a reader looking for a quick escape, dive into the world of short stories. Discover the boundless imagination that can be unfurled within a handful of pages, and unveil the power of crafting these mini worlds of imagination. Here’s a list of ten truly iconic short stories to get you started.

  1. “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
  2. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
  3. “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry (William Sydney Porter)
  4. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  5. “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant
  6. “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell
  7. “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway
  8. “The Lady or the Tiger?” by Frank R. Stockton
  9. “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka
  10. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor

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Finding Way- The Industry Flexes Through Covid

In March this year, when the world moved into its first Covid- 19 lock-down, none of us could have imagined the devastation on the Theatre Industry. As we tentatively stepped back out into the European summer, we didn’t foresee we’d be back for a second lockdown as we head toward the new year.

And while the Theatre industry has run perilously close to collapse over recent months, and there is still concern over the viability of the Christmas pantomime season, companies have found ways to persevere and keep their doors open, often in unexpected ways. Theatres through the course of the year have been able to create and survive, whether that be taking work out of the theatres and into the public domain, digitising performances or using empty theatre space for the good of the community.

The Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre have responded to the pandemic by taking their theatre outdoors for this Christmas season. Their socially distanced creation Present is a set of four ‘handcrafted, pop-up’ Christmas Shows, each one a unique performance that will be held on the doorstep or back gardens of community nominated Dundonians.

Oxford-based Creation Theatre will be taking their work digital after being awarded £165k in funding. They will create a digital repertory company and a new online theatre platform including the development of projects that aim to “pave the way for new approaches in the industry”.

Some companies with empty theatres have found ways to raise income while helping the community. Manchester’s Lowry Theatre has set up a temporary court to help ease the legal backlog while their theatre was empty. Dubbed the ‘Nightingale Court’, the venue has acted as an additional Magistrates’ Court to deal with excess cases in the criminal justice system, and in doing so provided income for the gallery and theatre.

Another great example is Eden Court Theatre in Inverness, which has converted its traditional theatre space into a hub for the Highland Council to deliver humanitarian aid as well as turning over their box office system to become a community helpline.

Some theatres have been able to live stream their performances, allowing at least some of their annual programme to go ahead, albeit digitally, including the upcoming Philip Ridley’s Poltergeist at Southwark Playhouse on 20–21 November.

The good news is that in this lockdown rehearsals can still go ahead, meaning shows in development should be ready to go live as soon as the lockdown is set to end December 2nd. Stephen Fry and a group of actors will celebrate the reopening with a charity performance of a semi-staged rehearsed reading of The Understudy at the Palace Theatre on the 7th & 8th December with proceeds going to Acting For Others, the Equity Charitable Trust and The Theatre Development Trust, run by the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre.

Let’s hope this ingenuity, flex and collaboration will keep our spirits and the curtain up and see theatre companies thrive again in 2021 and beyond.

Also by Fiona Georgiou-Hunt

History Has Its Eyes on the Disney+ Masterstroke

Close Up From A Distance; Is “In Camera” The Future of Live Theatre?


History Has It’s Eyes on Disney+
Cover image courtesy of Denys Nevozhai

There’s not been much to shout about for any of us who work in the theatre, film or TV industry since the global pandemic took hold. But with every constraint, there are unexpected opportunities that arise, and for Disney+, a world full of children out of school and stuck at home saw many parents subscribe to the channel as a way to entertain/occupy/babysit the kids.

In April, the Guardian reported the Disney+ had reached 50 million global subscribers, a mere five months after launch.

This is a phenomenal achievement, but with its suite of titles from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars, Disney+ was bound to win the hearts and minds of bored kids and stressed parents.

A slightly obtuse inclusion in the programming line-up is the incredible collection of National Geographic content, arising from what was originally a partnership between the National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox, and later became a part of Disney+ after its majority share acquisition of 21st Century Fox in March, 2019.

But now, as lockdown begins to ease in Europe and globally, questions of longevity arise, as certainly many of my friends and colleagues with children have expressed their angst that after seventeen weeks of lockdown, their kids have pretty much exhausted the Disney + library.

So then came the masterstroke. On the 3rd July Disney broadcast Hamilton, the original production of the critically acclaimed Broadway musical.

My social feeds lit up as my theatre friends and colleagues from across the globe shared their delight. The brilliance of this programming move is Disney+ brings together an unusual collection of viewers under one, strangely homely umbrella; the kids, the kids at heart, the parents of kids, the nature lovers, and now the arts nuts.

Once hooked by Hamilton, there are other gems on the platform for musical theatre lovers, including the 2014 version of Into the Woods, with Anna Kendrick, Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep, the Tony award winning musical Newsies, plus old favourites like Annie, Mary Poppins and Sound of Music. While TV broadcast of musicals has often been a retrospective experience, a historical journey into the fun shows of generations past, the inclusion of Hamilton brings the programming right into the present day. It’s a refreshing change, as good, current theatre shows are generally absent from mainstream broadcast, for obvious reasons. And while there is always an argument that broadcasting theatre goes against the very essence of live performance, my personal view is that the reach of mainstream broadcast only encourages live theatre going.

There’s no doubt about the smart piecing together of niche audiences from Disney+. Let’s hope Hamilton is just the start of continued great arts content.


Also by Fiona Georgiou-Hunt

Close Up From A Distance; Is “In Camera” The Future of Live Theatre?

The Enigma of Ideas

A common question around writing is “Where do you get your ideas from?” I guess ideas  usually come from being somewhere -a place or an event where I’ve been immersed in a situation or a destination. So, the stimulus of an environment helps. Then I tend to ask myself the ‘What if” question. What if x happened here right now, or what would happen if that person over there wanted z etc. Once I’ve got a rough idea of something that sparks an interest, I then play with the idea, trying to make it more resonant.

Robin Mukherjee wrote in Art of Screenplays, that you need to test your idea for that deep resonance. “Do you feel something move in the deeper, darker aspects of your understanding of what it is to be human….if (so) then it is likely to make others respond in the same way.,,if not….focus the beam a bit more.”I think this quote is really key. If I can’t find something about an idea that connects, I can’t get writing. It’s hard to explain and it’s a gut feeling, but it’s really important.

But, it doesn’t mean you throw out all ideas until you get that once that chimes with you. If you’ve got the semblance of an idea, just keep digging a little deeper to see if you can hit on something.

What Constitutes A Script?

In filmmaking, there is much debate over the script, what it constitutes and who owns it. The inherent difference between a script and a novel or a play is that, ultimately, the script is a blueprint, a starting point, and inevitable collaboration, compared to the sanctity of the play or novel.

That understood, it is still hard not to get riled up reading the first chapter of Mara’s text on Autuer theory.  While interesting to understand that the “ politique des auteurs was itself a response to a deeper problem that still has implications for film workers today: namely the separation of conception and execution”, my first question was, why is this a phenomenon, when in comparison to arguably it’s closest artform, playwriting, no such phenomena occurs?

While cognisant and accepting that a screenplay is a looser and less absolute form than a  theatre play, it still seems a giant leap from the reverence of the playwright in the theatre world  to the subversion the  writer  and exultation of the Director in screenwriting.

A quick Google search of Autuer exemplars shows a pictorial gallery of present and past middle-aged white men- Anderson, Tarantino, Scorsese, Wilder, Nolan, Hitchcock -it’s hard to ignore the gender politics here. So is Autuer theory  just a construct of Hollywood elite, a flexing of their power to  portray their talent as more far-reaching than it may actually be ? It reminds me of conceptual artists like Jeff Koons, whose works are often physically created by a team of artists employed by Koons, but the artist concept  and kudos belongs to Koons himself. The difference between this example and the auteurs is to me the hub of the argument -it’s about here the story idea is conceived.

For me the fundamental argument starts before a script evolves at all. At the beginning of any creative process, an idea emerges from somewhere. In the case of the screenwriter, it is a story idea that almost always originates from the writer. The writer then brings that idea to life, then shares it with collaborators to be brought to life. Would the autuers have projects at all if every writer decided to put their pens down?