Harlan Coben on Creating Suspense

Harlan Coben on Creating Suspense

Harlan Coben on Creating Suspense Transcript

I want these to be people like you and me. I’m not really interested in writing James Bond or a superhero. I want them to have the same foibles, the same mistakes, the same feeling out of their element. It’s really the classically the ordinary man, the extraordinary circumstance. I enjoy that. I want it to feel like this is somebody you know, this is you, this is your neighbour, and I think that that’s probably what people mean when they say I do domestic. Sometimes I do family, sometimes I don’t, but I’m hoping that the people feel like normal people.

I don’t really write books, I don’t think, with a lot – there’s not a lot of violence, there’s not a lot of blood or anything like that. I’d rather the suspense come from something smaller. It’s a placid pool, and you drop a pebble in there and boom, it’s what you can make it. It’s not choppy waters, it’s that placid pool, and the small thing that can ripple.

Normally what I try to do is take an ordinary situation and ask ‘what if?’ All fiction writing comes down to asking ‘what if?’So for example, a few years ago friends of mine told me that they were worried about their child’s online activities, and they decided to put a little spy camera on his laptop, a spyware on his laptop. And I said to myself ‘well what if? What if they get a message that changes their lives?’ and just keep asking the ‘what ifs’, turn them around a little bit, twist it, look at it a different way.

But that’s sort of what I prefer to do, something more ordinary than some great reaching the president or parliament kind of a story. I like to find that small thing and just kind of turn it in a different direction.