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No Title – SuspenseGuru http://www.vikrubenfeld.com The Suspense Guru Sun, 06 Oct 2019 03:30:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 29655602 The Best Description I’ve Ever Seen of What a Work of Art Is http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2019/10/the-best-description-ive-ever-seen-of-what-a-work-of-art-is/ http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2019/10/the-best-description-ive-ever-seen-of-what-a-work-of-art-is/#respond Sun, 06 Oct 2019 03:10:57 +0000 http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/?p=3438 Read More]]> This site provides many quick, easy-to-get-with examples of what a work of art is.

I have just discovered the best written description I’ve ever seen that communicates this — without the use of examples. It is by the great poet, Walt Whitman. Here it is:

The land and sea, the animals, fishes, and birds, the sky of heaven and the orbs, the forests, mountains, and rivers, are not small themes … but folks expect of the poet to indicate more than the beauty and dignity which always attach to dumb real objects … they expect him to indicate the path between reality and their souls.

A work of art indicates the path between reality and your soul!

Fantastic! Do you feel that?

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Multiple Antagonists http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2019/01/multiple-antagonists/ http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2019/01/multiple-antagonists/#comments Sun, 06 Jan 2019 23:37:08 +0000 http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/?p=3309 Read More]]> A student of my best-selling Suspense Guru Udemy course, asks a great question:

Your course has made me realize that I have more than one antagonist in my story. An ‘in-your-face’ obvious one, but two others that I never realized fell under the title of antagonist. How do you deal with this covert duo in a story?

Suspense Guru course Q&A

There are a number of ways of including multiple antagonists in a story.

Antagonists Who Are All Reporting to The Same Boss

This is the most common way of doing it. Almost all action movies and video games have this. The protagonist must fight past all the lesser villains and finally fight the boss villain. For example:

Independent Antagonists Fighting Each Other Over the Same Goal

Here, independent antagonists are battling the hero and one another to make sure they, and not any of the others, obtain a specific goal.

Serial Antagonists

These antagonists can be independent, or all serving the same boss. They can have all different goals, or all be fighting for the same goal. But they are dealt with and defeated serially, one by one, never to be seen again.

Here, one antagonist after another battles the hero or heroine of your story. They are defeated one by one, and for the most part don’t recur in the story afterwards. While there may be a big boss whom all the antagonists are serving, the big boss doesn’t appear in the story at all.

What holds this together is that the protagonist has a very specific goal, and he must fight through all of these antagonists on the way to obtaining it.

I hope the above is helpful. Please ask me any follow-up questions here, or, in the Q&A for my Udemy course.

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How Late In Your Story Can You Introduce a Main Character? http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2015/10/how-late-in-your-story-can-you-introduce-a-main-character/ http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2015/10/how-late-in-your-story-can-you-introduce-a-main-character/#comments Mon, 19 Oct 2015 16:53:13 +0000 http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/?p=3071 Read More]]> @burtabreu asks:

Burt, this is a great question, because it brings up the topic of ACT STRUCTURE.

Without going into all the detail that I talk about in my online webinar and upcoming videos, let’s consider what Act 1 is. Act 1 is the beginning of the story. It contains everything the audience needs in order to understand Acts 2 and 3. Included in Act 1 are all the main characters and their initial relationships to one another.

In preparing this blog post I went looking for counter-examples. In THE MATRIX, the Oracle is introduced in Act 2.  But of course, important though she is to the story, she is a supporting character rather than a main character. While her influence is felt throughout Act 2 and Act 3, she appears in only one scene.

In THE WIZARD OF OZ, Dorothy doesn’t meet the Wizard until Act 2—but again, though his influence is felt throughout Act 2 and Act 3, the Wizard appears in very few scenes. He is a supporting character rather than a main character.

How late in Act 1 can you introduce a main character? Any time—even at the very end. Again looking at THE MATRIX as an example, Morpheus isn’t introduced on screen until the end of Act 1.

By definition the beginning of your story—Act 1—isn’t over until all the main characters have been introduced.

To recap, your main characters and their initial relationships to one another should all be introduced in your Act 1, the beginning—roughly the first third—of your story.

I hope this has been helpful. Please ask me follow-up questions here or on Twitter.


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I’m Honored to be Keynoting Book ‘Em NC! http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2015/10/im-honored-to-be-keynoting-book-em-nc/ http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2015/10/im-honored-to-be-keynoting-book-em-nc/#comments Mon, 12 Oct 2015 15:10:15 +0000 http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/?p=3059 Read More]]>

I will be giving the Keynote speech at the February 2016 Book ‘Em NC Writer’s Conference and Book Fair.

The Book ‘Em Foundation was founded by suspense author p.m.terrell and Waynesboro, Virginia Police Officer Mark Kearney as a partnership between authors and law enforcement. The mission of The Book ‘Em Foundation is to raise public awareness of the correlation between high illiteracy rates and high crime rates.

The Book ‘Em North Carolina annual event brings together at least 75 authors under one roof to speak on a variety of subjects and to sell their books. A portion of the proceeds raised from the event (a minimum of 40%) is given to the community – Robeson County and Lumberton, North Carolina – for the purpose of increasing literacy and reducing crime.

The event is free and open to the public. All ages are encouraged to attend. There will be authors with children’s books as well as authors from a large variety of genres: mystery/suspense, romance, historical, non-fiction, and much more.

I’m honored to be giving appearing as a Headlining Writer and to be giving the Keynote at this great event!

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Do You Need an Ending Before You Start? http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2015/09/do-you-need-an-ending-before-you-start/ http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2015/09/do-you-need-an-ending-before-you-start/#comments Mon, 21 Sep 2015 16:56:20 +0000 http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/?p=3006 Read More]]> @seanpetermusic asks:

Thanks for asking this great question, Sean.

You don’t need to know the ending before you start—in a moment we’ll look at some very famous examples. But you must know the effect you want to have on your audience, in order to create a satisfying and successful ending.

As writers one of the most important decisions we can make, is to select the style we want to work in. Selecting your style has enormous power. It is here that you select the effect you want to have. I have a page listing the different styles here. The ending to your story must pay off the effect you have chosen.

Let’s look at some famous cases of films for which the screenwriters considered different possible endings before picking the ones they are known for. We will see how the endings were changed to suit the effect they wanted to have on the audience.

SPOILERS Don’t click a film title until you’ve seen the movie!

In these examples, the ending was changed to achieve the effect the screenwriter wanted to have on the audience.

So the answer is, while you don’t need to know the ending of your story when you first start writing, you do need to know the style of your story—i.e. the effect you want to have on your audience—so that you can craft an ending that matches that effect.

I hope this has been helpful.

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Kara Piazza Interviews Vik at TheWritingPiazza.com http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2015/08/kara-piazza-interviews-vik-at-thewritingpiazza-com/ http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2015/08/kara-piazza-interviews-vik-at-thewritingpiazza-com/#respond Fri, 21 Aug 2015 18:14:42 +0000 http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/?p=2994 Check out this awesome interview Kara did with me on her site. Thanks Kara! I loved doing the interview.

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How to Set Up a Twist Without Giving Too Much Away http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2015/08/how-to-set-up-a-twist-without-giving-too-much-away/ http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2015/08/how-to-set-up-a-twist-without-giving-too-much-away/#comments Thu, 06 Aug 2015 17:45:08 +0000 http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/?p=2969 Read More]]> @mercblues asks:

I asked:


I replied:

You’re very welcome, Amy!

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Using Foreshadowing to Build Suspense http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2015/07/using-foreshadowing-to-build-suspense/ http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2015/07/using-foreshadowing-to-build-suspense/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 20:07:57 +0000 http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/?p=2933 Read More]]> @tdmiller820917 and I were having a conversation on Twitter:

She asks:

Tracy, thanks very much for this excellent question! To respond, I re-read one of Joseph Conrad’s best-known works, “Heart of Darkness”.

In this novella Conrad really does, as my friend said, foreshadow everything. Here are a few examples.

“It was just two months from the day we left the creek when we came to the bank below Kurtz’s station.”

That sounds like the beginning of a passage in which the narrator, Marlowe, will describe his arrival at Kurtz’s station. But that arrival doesn’t happen until considerably later in the novel. Instead, this sentence begins a description of the journey up the river, on the way to Kurtz. Marlowe is foreshadowing the coming arrival at Kurtz’s station.

“Perhaps I had a little fever too. One can’t live with one’s finger everlastingly on one’s pulse. I had often ‘a little fever,’ or a little touch of other things— the playful paw-strokes of the wilderness, the preliminary trifling before the more serious onslaught which came in due course.”

That foreshadows the life-threatening illness Marlowe will have much later in the story.

“I thought, ‘By Jove! it’s all over. We are too late; he has vanished— the gift has vanished, by means of some spear, arrow, or club. I will never hear that chap speak after all,’— and my sorrow had a startling extravagance of emotion, even such as I had noticed in the howling sorrow of these savages in the bush. I couldn’t have felt more of lonely desolation somehow, had I been robbed of a belief or had missed my destiny in life. […]

Now I think of it, it is amazing I did not shed tears. I am, upon the whole, proud of my fortitude. I was cut to the quick at the idea of having lost the inestimable privilege of listening to the gifted Kurtz. Of course I was wrong. The privilege was waiting for me.

That foreshadows his meeting with Kurtz, that doesn’t come until much later in the story.

Whether he [Kurtz] knew of this deficiency himself I can’t say. I think the knowledge came to him at last— only at the very last.

That foreshadows Kurtz’s last words—among the most famous lines in the history of the novel.

Using Foreshadowing to Build Suspense

All along, Conrad is using foreshadowing to tease us—to pique our interest and curiosity—to build anticipation. When Marlowe says (as quoted above),”It was just two months from the day we left the creek when we came to the bank below Kurtz’s station,” and then makes us wait many pages to find out what happened on Marlowe’s arrival there, it makes us curious.

When Marlowe says (as quoted above), “The privilege was waiting for me,” it makes us curious to what the outcome would be of Marlowe enjoying that privilege.

And when Marlowe says “I think the knowledge came to him at last— only at the very last,” it foreshadows Kurtz’s death—and makes us curious to know what exactly was this knowledge that came to Kurtz at the end.

Conrad’s use of foreshadowing makes us curious. It keeps us turning the pages. It builds suspense.

Using Foreshadowing While Maintaining a Surprising Ending

Marlowe doesn’t tell us at first what happened when he arrived at Kurtz’s camp—only that he would indeed arrive there in the course of the story.

He doesn’t tell us what Kurtz’s last words were. He makes us curious to know—then makes us wait to find out.

The key here is to foreshadow using enough info to make us curious—and not a bit more! That’s how Conrad is able to foreshadow everything—without giving away the surprise of events.

I hope this has been helpful.

Update 7-28-2015:

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How Slow or Fast to Pace Your Story—Here’s the Key to Making Any Story Pace Work http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2015/07/trouble-pacing-your-stories-heres-what-to-do/ http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2015/07/trouble-pacing-your-stories-heres-what-to-do/#comments Mon, 06 Jul 2015 17:26:04 +0000 http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/?p=2882 Read More]]> Solaris (1972)

SOLARIS (1972)

@mercblues writes:

@tdmiller820917 agrees:

For purposes of this post, I watched Solaris (1972), which while being highly-regarded, is considered to be one of the slowest-paced films ever made.

This film is a great example of a slow-paced film that can still hold your attention. It is, as it were, relentlessly slow-paced. 🙂 Scenes can go on several minutes with the least dialogue or action of any kind.

So how is it able to hold peoples’ attention? It does so through the power of suspense. You are in suspense all the way through to find out:

  • Will Kelvin survive?
  • Will Hari survive?
  • Will Kelvin and Hari’s love survive?
  • Will Solaris destroy the scientific mission from Earth?
  • Will the scientists destroy Solaris?

From the standpoint of satisfying the audience, pacing is a matter of the author’s personal preference. A story can be as slow-paced as Solaris (1972), and still be highly-regarded, as long as it has suspense.

So, to riff on one of the most famous sentences of all time—Fast paced or slow paced? That is not the question. To have suspense or not to have suspense—that is the question.

Ask me follow-up questions here or on Twitter!

I hope this has been helpful.


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The Big Picture, A to Z, Self-Publishing Checklist http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2015/06/self-publishing-checklist/ http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/2015/06/self-publishing-checklist/#comments Thu, 25 Jun 2015 17:01:32 +0000 http://www.vikrubenfeld.com/?p=2852 Read More]]> @ClaraRicks1 asks:

Thanks for this great question, Clara. There is a lot that goes into it. On the plus side, it’s getting easier all the time. Here is a big-picture checklist.

  • Get your book designed
  • Format your book for print and ebook
  • Properly launch your book at time of publication
  • Publish to paperback
  • Publish to ebook
Get Your Book Designed

This includes:

Format Your Book for Print and eBook

There are many professionals who can handle this for you. However, if you prefer to handle it yourself (as I do):

For print:

  • Get your book into an MS Word or InDesign file that contains all of the items in the “Get Your Book Designed” section of this post.
  • Export as PDF

For ebook:

  • There are great applications for this, including InDesign, JutohCalibre, etc. They come with a steep learning curve, but they do an excellent job.

A middle ground between hiring a professional and doing it yourself, is to use a template. Paste your text into the template and the template handles the font and page design tasks.

One of the best-known people in this regard is Joel Friedlander at thebookdesigner.com. He provides templates that handle the non-creative (i.e. not writing or cover design) tasks listed in the “Get Your Book Designed” and “Format Your Book for Print and E-Book” sections in this post, including exporting to ebook format. I used one of his templates for my novel, Conquest.

Properly Launch Your Book at Time of Publication

This is very important. The time immediately before your book is published is very special for marketing purposes, because that is the time when you can say to the world that something new is on the way. Resources include:

Publish to Paperback

Upload your PDF to one of the following services to have paper copies of your book printed and ready to sell:

Newshelves provides an excellent comparison of these three services.

Publish to eBook

Your ebook can be published and sold via:

Some articles comparing these services are provided by:

I hope this has been helpful.

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