Writing psychologically

LOCKDOWN. I’ve spent it writing fiction, but only today wrote anything in the first person; i.e. about myself. Perhaps others have experienced the same: only able to speak in the voices of characters. After all, Life has seemed unreal.

AND WHAT HAVE I BEEN WRITING? Furthering a psychological mystery or domestic drama,; call it what you will to describe a life-changing event the characters must react to as they move forward differently.

It’s the third in a series: Uncommon Relations, but whereas the first two books took a single point of view, Part 3 uses several. Other characters respond to the main character and so Terry is seen from their persepctive. It’s taken me from the first days of lockdown until now to complete it, struggling to remain true to each character in the spotlight.

It’s already available on pre-order. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08VDYYDVS

My series has no detectives, no deaths, no car chase. But what is more dramatic than revealing family secrets!

The psychological thriller is currently highly popular. One character maybe messing with another’s mind, suggesting the mind of another is seriously in question. One domestic situation maybe masquerading as calm when it’s lethal. The pull for the reader is to work out real from imagined. (Pretty important in real life in January 2021!)

Three high-selling books became prominent a few years back. Myriads of attempted read-alikes followed. The three were Gone Girl, after this, with more psychological conviction, The Girl on a Train and best of all, Before I Go to Sleep.  All three had tremendous success and films were soon made of them. Many authors have attempted to emulate this kind of novel, choosing  titles very near to these three biggies.

The books are ‘psychological’ because mind furnishes the plot. How will a character behave under stress, in shock or after trauma? Readers get to know them in more ordinary circumstances and can then predict, or understand, perhaps empathise with their reactions.

To be satisfying to the reader, the actions of the characters must stay true to their nature right to the end. S.J. Watson achieved this. The other two books drop off in credibility around three-quarters of the way through. Why? Because it’s too difficult to believe the character built up behaves as s/he does. Too many twists of intent and the reader’s credulity is stretched to breaking point, and this is where some psychological thrillers fail.  A heartless murderer is ulikely to freely give his history to other characters, explaining how he came to kill. A manipulative woman who has spent her life lying and cheating to others, won’t settle tamely to marriage, even with the man of her dreams.

If a device only achieves an end to the plot, it won’t give insight into the key character, and this is typically a reader’s motivation in choosing this genre.

I hope I’ve kept my many characters true to themselves as I plunge them into deeper or new dilemmas. Dilemmas are the other key attraction for reading psychological fiction. “What would you do if…(an old flame moved in next door/a sister you believed dead telephoned/your child’s friend divulged his father’s affair with your…?”

In the case of my series: How can you seek out those you care for, without them discovering your dreadful secret? Even if it’s not your fault?