Peggy Bechko’s World of Suspense

by Peggy Bechko

Suspense.

That’s the key to a good story. Doesn’t matter if it’s a script or a novel. Suspense is what draws the reader/viewer in and holds on tight.

So is creating suspense one of your skills?

It’s fascinating to watch a real master build suspense and there are many ways. One great example, especially for screenwriters is Alfred Hitchcock. If you haven’t watched his movies you should.

That said, one I’m referring to in particular for his example is a film that wasn’t as well known as his others, called Rope. In it two men commit a murder as the first thing the audience sees, then they hide the body in a big wooden chest in the living room where the pair is about to host a dinner party.

If that set-up doesn’t grab you by the throat you need to check your pulse.

Of course, guests enter the apartment immediately on the heels of the murders stashing the body in the chest. This is true suspense right from the beginning.

The murder might not have been shown, it could have happened off-screen as I understand the original play had it. But Mr. Hitchcock gave it another twist.

Now the audience knows there’s been a murder – it won’t be a surprise at the end – and everyone in the audience is on the edge of his or her seat anticipating when or if the dinner guests will find out they’ve been setting their drinks on the chest that contains a body and that they’ve sat down to dinner with a pair of murderers.

Genius, no? Instead of hiding the fact of the murder and doing the complete set-up with just the dinner guests arriving and the hosts entertaining – saving the ‘big reveal’ for the end the murder was made perfectly plain along with the fact that the body was in the chest.

From that moment on it’s in the air as to what might happen next, where this story can carry the audience.

The imagination of the viewers is set loose like a wild thing. At any moment things can go terribly wrong. It’s like being in on a deadly secret.

Mr. Hitchcock’s brilliance with suspense is showcased in that film. He did what he did with the script because he knew he was exchanging a shock at the end of the film for prolonged, edge-of-your-seat suspense throughout the entire movie. It thrilled audiences then and if you watch it now it’ll thrill you too.

The same thing can be done in a novel as with the script. As a writer of suspense remember not to hold back on information that could create dangerous situations for your characters. Open up. Give that information as soon in your story as you can.

Once it’s out there the reader or watcher with be biting fingernails through your entire story, waiting for ‘the next shoe to drop’, imagining all the ways things can go very wrong and thrilling to your conclusion.

The mystery in that case has become not what has happened to cause the situation, but rather what’s going to happen next!

Seriously. Watch some of Mr. Hitchcock’s films. Steal some of his methods. Then add your own twists for an edge-of-your-seat tale that’ll really get the blood pumping.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. blog. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

Larry Brody’s Poetry: How I Met the Navajo Dog

by Larry Brody

kidhollywoodcovercoyotecaptureNOTE FROM LB: 

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Or at least the moment I’d been waiting for all my life until it happened. Not that I knew it – then.

How I Met the Navajo Dog

People ask how I met my friend the Navajo dog.

I tell them a story about driving cross-country

And being called to her side while passing through

Gallup, in New Mexico. Suddenly, while driving down

West Aztec Boulevard I knew that my dog was waiting for me.

No, not in Gallup. That would have been too easy.

Farther north, in the place named,

By European immigrants and not the People who lived

There,  Monument Valley. I drove to Navajo Country,

And there she was, a puppy then,

With her mother and a sister, living in the

Shadow of the rock called the Left Mitten, and

When she saw me, the little red and white creature

(With ears like a bat and a mask over both eyes)

Jumped into my car. “Let’s go,” she said. “Come

On.” A Navajo woman was watching, and she

Assured me it was just fine. “The mother’s been

chasing sheep,” she told me. “We’re going to

Shoot her in the morning. Her and her pups that have

Survived.” I took the dog to a small pet shop in Kayenta (even

The Navajo nation has malls), and got her some food,

And two bowls, and a collar and leash.

The Navajo dog ate the food, drank some water,

Bore the collar, and munched up the leash. Her

Eyes said, “I can only go so far.” That evening,

We went to the laundromat, where I

Asked advice on her name. Everyone had a

Different Navajo word for it: “Bandit,” “Wolf,” “Fox,”

“Thief,” but the Navajo dog ignored them, and

Wouldn’t respond.

That night, as I slept in the cheapest motel room,

I heard the dog’s voice. “I am Navajo,” she said

Proudly. “I live with the desert. I drink

Mud from indented rocks. I eat horse dung and

Cheetos, and I feel both the past and the future

Inside. I am Navajo,” she repeated with pride.

“I am alone, yet together. I am of the People

Five times cursed and blessed.

Stick with me, kid,” she said, “and look forward

And backward. Let the present take care of

Itself. Stick with me, kid, and take the kicks

And the beatings, the heat and the hunger,

The cold of a ground so frozen you can only be

Buried with fire.

I am the People,” she said. “Stick with me,

And you too will be cursed and blessed,

For such,” she moaned sadly,

“Is the way of the Navajo dog.”

See? A true story. True, every word.

For that too is the

Way of the Navajo dog.


Larry Brody is the head dood at TVWriter™. Although the book whose cover you see above is for sale on Kindle, he is posting at least one poem a week here at TVWriter™ because, as the Navajo Dog herself once pointed out to me, “Art has to be free. If you create it for money, you lost your vision, and yourself.” It was the first time LB ever heard a dog scoff. But not the last.

TVWriter™ Don’t-Miss Posts of the Week – Nov. 7, 2016

In case you’ve missed what’s happening at TVWriter™, the most popular blog posts during the week ending yesterday were:

‘Designated Survivor’ a hit for ABC

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

Peggy Bechko’s World: Writers, are You Fearing Success?

“Rick And Morty” Season 3 Looks to be Better Than Ever

8 Tips for Writing for Children’s TV Shows

And our most visited permanent resource pages were:

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT

Writing the Dreaded Outline

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT: Enter

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT: Rules

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT: About

The People’s Pilot ruled last week! We’ll have more to say about that right here in the next few days. Meanwhile, major thanks to everyone for making this such a great week at TVWriter™ and for entering the PP. Remember – don’t forget to click above and read what you missed and re-read what you loved!

Dennis O’Neil: Mayor Green Arrow? Really?

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by Dennis O’Neil

What’s the pothole situation in Starling City? And the re-zoning hassle – that still a headache? And the business with the access lanes to the bridge – was that ever settled?

Since Oliver Queen’s been elected mayor, it’s reasonable to think that this kind of mayoral busyness is the better part of his days. At night, of course, he puts on a mask and hood and grabs his bow and arrows and kicks (or maybe punctures) miscreant ass. Oh, and his also training a bunch of wannabe vigilantes to help with the kicking/puncturing – and not always being Mr. Nice Guy while he’s doing it. (Maybe he’s got some marine drill sergeant DNA?)

The question is, who is better for Starling City, the politician or the archer? If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’d probably choose the archer because obviously anybody would be better than a politician.

But that can of worms will be left unopened. Tell you what: let’s reframe the question. Who’s more useful to a storyteller, archer or pol? I guess it depends on the kind of tale being told. A story by…oh, say, Aaron Sorkin or Robert Penn Warren or Allen Drury would perhaps fare best as political drama. The kind of fantasy/melodrama/action tale we’re considering here is better with an ass-kicker as its protagonist. Which leaves our man Ollie where?

A kind of hybrid, one who favors the arrow shooting part of his persona, is where. That’s pretty much how it has to be. Nobody with a taste for adventures – that is, nobody who’s Arrow’s natural audience – is going to tune in to watch a guy in a three-piece suit behind a desk reading policy papers. We want to see some arrows shot and some of that good martial arts action! Leave that other stuff to CNN.

Casting a superhero as a civic leader, it seems to me, strains the genre. Part of the appeal of costumed superdoers is that they can do what duly constituted authorities can’t. Where a mayor’s job ends, theirs begins. One explanation for adopting a second persona – and it’s not a bad one – is that the disguise keeps the bad guys from knowing who to wreak revenge on. The other reason for a civic leader hiding behind a costume and fighting crime is that he couldn’t do as mayor what he does as vigilante because the vigilante must break the law to do his deeds. But whoa! Don’t mayors swear to uphold the law? We got us some hypocrite mojo working here?

Another deep appeal of double-identited heroes might require some psyche excavation. The idea is, we all have more than one identity lurking within us – we behave differently in different situations – and we might feel that the real us is one of those unseen lurkers. Costumed heroes manifest this idea and also give us a hook into identifying with the good guy.

I think part pf the storyteller’s task is to make the two identities distinct and that’s often a failure. I tried and pretty much failed to convince my Batman writers that Bruce Wayne should present himself as a tough-as-nails businessman, but as a good-natured bumbler. And I never liked Clark Kent as the best reporter in town. (Didn’t he win a Pulitzer?)

Of course, as always, the secret is in the recipe, not the ingredients. If the story entertains, the creators have done their jobs and they’re free to go watch tv. Wonder what’s on the CW?


Dennis O’Neil is one of the top writer-editors in comics, having guided the careers of just about every superhero the world has ever heard of. He’s also a damn fine writer of TV. LB still remembers that time he and Denny collaborated, without ever knowing they were doing so. Or knowing each other either. Ah, the magic of TV! This post was first published in Denny’s column at ComicMix.

Posts TVWriter™ Wishes We’d Published Instead of These Other Guys

This week’s collection of recent articles from other websites about TV, TV writing, etc., etc., etc. The plan here is for you to click on their headlines and visit the sites and read the posts in full…and is anybody asks, tell ’em TVWriter™ sentcha, okay?

Person Of Interest Was Anti-Prestige TV And Too Smart For Primetime
by Ed Zitron

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First, let me tell you what Person of Interest is. Person of Interest is the inverse of Game of Thrones. For every shock death from the HBO’s version of George R.R. Martin’s book series, it had Kevin Chapman getting maced by a model and beaten up with a handbag. For every Game of Thrones setpiece that sent 49 bloggers into an ejaculatory frenzy over the ambiguous motives and bloodlines of royals, Person of Interest had a scene where Jim Caviezel kicks seven shades of shit out of the cardboard archetype of a bad person….

Writer David Koepp on ‘Inferno’, ‘Jurassic Park’, Working with David Fincher, and More
by Steve “Frosty” Weintraub

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One of the best things about doing an interview outside of a press junket is time. When a studio holds a big junket at a hotel, everyone’s time is extremely limited because the people need to be able to speak with all the reporters. While you occasionally can land twenty minutes with someone in a one-on-one setting, it’s not the norm.

So when I arranged to speak with veteran screenwriter David Koepp about writing the movie adaptation of Ron Howard’s Inferno, one of the things that really excited me was that he was going to give me enough time to have an in-depth conversation….

Martha Thomases: Copycat Crimes
by Matha Thomases

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Passionate and principled capitalists believe in the rights of workers, investors and creative people to reap the rewards of their efforts. If you start a business, invent a new product, or plant in your own field, you should get to keep the profits… after paying your workers fairly, of course. We’re talking about capitalists with principles.

In an ideal world, this can be a good system. I’m motivated to work hard because I get paid in a manner that is equal to my effort and my risk….

The Following Season 4 No Longer Became Possible Because the TV Series Lost Writing Steam Right After Season 1
by Kazem Sedighzadeh

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In a way, the American psychological thriller drama TV series “The Following” on Fox was fortunate that it got to Season 3 even though it was canceled right afterward.

Those who have watched the show right from the beginning know that the TV series lost steam right after its remarkable first season and it was all downhill from there….