March 21st, 2009

The Bodies Left Behind

I spent a couple of days this week reading The Bodies Left Behind by Jeffrey Deaver. While this isn’t the best Deaver book, it does have a lot going for it, both for a reader who is just a reader and a reader who is also an author.

One thing he did very well was to pair up people who had nothing in common but were forced to work together. One cocky wannabe hitman is teamed up with a cold professional. And their prey are a female sherrif’s deputy who is forced to go on the run in the forest with a witness, a pampered city woman in high heels and expensive clothes.

Another thing that I’m taking away from this as a mystery writer is that the law officer gets hit by a shotgun pellet in the face, creating a hole in her cheek and destroying a molar. That happened early on in the book, and it did a lot to ratchet up the suspense. You knew that if he was willing to do that to his main character, he was willing to do nearly anything.

So the two tips for increasing tension:
- Force characters who have nothing in common to work together.
- Hurt your main character.

You can use these things even if you're not writing a mystery. How many comedies have you seen where two people with nothing in common are thrown together? And hurting your main character could even be giving them a zit.



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