6. “Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.”
Alfred Hitchcock enjoyed playing his audiences like a piano. Making them laugh one minute and scream the next.
You know what he also did? He made his viewers suffer. In a great way, not a bad way. In the way that compelling drama is made of, in the way that makes you want to keep watching because you have no idea where the story is headed next.
What he means by this quote is that the more your viewer, or reader, is suffering inside, from the anguish of what might happen to the main character he or she loves, from the constant suspense that never lets up, the story itself will only get better and better.
When you can’t put down a book? When it’s so captivating, and you’re so worried about what’s going to happen next?
That’s the magic of storytelling. You’re suffering for those characters you adore, but in a good way.
Don’t let you readers off the hook so easily. Don’t have long scenes where everything is fine. No drama. No conflict.
Instead, make the reader fall in love with your protagonist and then put him or her through the ringer. Make that character suffer greatly.
Hitchcock did this with Joan Fontaine in Suspicion, and Farley Granger in Strangers on a Train, and James Stewart in Vertigo, and Tippi Hedren in The Birds.
The list goes on and on. When you have a connection to the main character, you want everything to go his or her way. And when it doesn’t, when the horror comes, when the unthinkable happens, the story grabs you and never lets go.
Make the audience suffer, just like Alfred Hitchcock did, and there’s no telling the kind of amazing work you’ll be able to achieve!
Brian Rowe is an author, teacher, book devotee, and film fanatic. He received his MFA in Creative Writing and MA in English from the University of Nevada, Reno, and his BA in Film Production from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He writes young adult and middle grade suspense novels, and is represented by Kortney Price of the Corvisiero Agency.
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