The Big Event…examples.


Yesterday, I said I would use some Big Events from popular books and movies…


I changed my mind.  I think it might be easier to explain if I applied the Big Event to my own work.  That way we can see if I did it correctly.


So, just to summarize…the Big Event must be: Believable, Compelling, Immediate, Terrifying.


I’m going to use examples from my current suspense series…The Missions Of Mercy Series …   


Point of No Return

Point of No Return (Love Inspired Suspense)


An American boy and a warlord’s engaged daughter have disappeared-together-in an Eastern European border country. Only one man can find them in time to prevent an international meltdown-Chet Stryker. But Chet is taken aback when he realizes the boy is the nephew of Mae Lund, Chet’s former flame. When Mae insists on rescuing her relative herself, Chet knows he has to protect her from the enemy on their trail. Yet can he protect himself from falling for Mae again?





The Big Event: 

A warlord is out to find and kill Chet, and he’ll do it by taking her nephew hostage. (compelling)   In the middle of Act 2, Chet and Mae discover that her nephew has mistakenly walked right into the warlord’s sights, and they must get to the boy before the warlord does.  (immediate) To make the fact the Warlord wants Chet believable, I have someone from the past recognize him, and remind him that the warlord has never forgotten him, and I add in the memory of this thug killing someone Chet loved.  To make it terrifying, I have the man burn down a humanitarian aid shelter and wound one of the American missionaries.  We know he means business.  



Mission: Out of Control


Mission: Out of Control (Love Inspired Suspense)

Brody “Wick” Wickham is a former Green Beret turned security agent-with a 100 percent mission success rate. No way is his new assignment changing that. Even if it’s protecting a diva American rock star while she’s on tour in Europe. Except Veronica “Vonya” Wagner isn’t just a beautiful celebrity used to having her way-she’s the daughter of a U.S. Senator. And she’s hiding a dangerous secret. When Wick discovers what’s at stake, how far over the line will he go to keep them both alive?





The Big Event: 

Someone is out to kill Vonya, and they are getting closer with each step on  her tour.  (immediate & compelling). To add believability and terror, a contact of Vonya’s is shot right in front of her.




Undercover PursuitUndercover Pursuit (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense)

The only way to get security agent Luke Dekker to a wedding? An undercover mission as groomsman. He’ll bust the groom, a drug cartel heir, before anyone can say “I do.” Then Luke can escape all this love and romance nonsense-and the too pretty bridesmaid/agent assigned as his “fiancée” for the weekend. Until Luke discovers that sweet, vulnerable Scarlett Hanson isn’t his contact. Isn’t an agent.

Isn’t trained for the high-stakes mission now trapping them both. And worse, Luke’s falling for her-which is not part of the assignment


The Big Event:

On the wedding day, a drug lord attending the wedding and all his cohorts will be apprehended…if he doesn’t get wind of the sting and kill the undercover operatives first.  To make it believable, I built into the backstory the death of a friend of one of the characters at the hands of this drug lord.  The immediacy is the impending hour of the sting.  To create terror, I have the villain increasingly suspect someone has betrayed them…and leave clues that he knows it’s the hero.  To make it compelling,  I have the villain’s son befriend the heroine…and prevent her from escaping.


(Shameless promotion alert:  By the way, all these stories are available now at your local bookstore…or Amazon.) 



I hope this helps your crafting of your Big Event!  Next week we’ll summarize all we’ve talked about to date…and then throw in a couple weeks of romance!


See you then!

The Big Event…make it terrifying!

The last few weeks we talked about the key to creating a suspense is  the Big Event that awaits the characters – either a positive or negative event that looms at the end of the story, one they either know about or don’t, but that has the effect of raising the tension as they draw closer (or are kept from it). 


So far, the Big Event needs to be Believable, Compelling, Immediate…and now Terrifying.


See, we need to believe that his horrible Big Event will be…horrible.  This is different from believing it can happen.  It’s answering the questions — so what?  If it happens, how does it affect me? 


You make it terrifying by looking at two different perspectives – personal and public fears. 


Personal fears are all about losing someone we love – a family member – a wife, child, something we all fear.  In Bird on a Wire, the fear is that they won’t get to live happily ever after, that their one true love will die.  In the Princess Bride, true love is at stake.  (clearly, that is a common theme!)


Public fear is about how devastating the event is, and who is affected.  (And if you can throw in someone in the personal circle, that increases the effect).  For example, in Dante’s Peak, the grandmother is burned to death (basically) and now we know how horrible it would be for someone – anyone to die this way.


In one of my favorite suspense, Air Force One, Glenn Close explains the terror when she says, “if we give into this threat, we’ll have terrorists crawling out of the woodwork.” 


The reader needs to understand why this threat is scary, and that if this Big Event happens, the world as we know it will be threatened.  An author can do this in a few ways: 


  • Have the effect of this threat shown at the beginning of the book. (going back to making it believable…show the results of this event.)  
  • Have the effect of this threat shown along the way, early in act 2, so that the hero/heroine understand the significance, through a personal taste of this event/effect or through viewing it through the lens of others.


Threaten the children, take out a government, kill a granny, give an entire town a contagious disease, and then wipe it out.  Make dinosaurs eat people…whatever you have to do to convince your reader that really…they don’t want this to happen.


Tomorrow, I’ll be looking at some popular suspense movies to dissect the Big Event for all the essential elements. 


See you then!

Susie May


The Big Event…make it immediate!

We need another bathroom in our home.  Not that we don’t already have three, but we have an unfinished room in the basement, plumbed out for a bathroom. More importantly, our daughter is graduating from High School next month, and I have about 30,875 people arriving at our home for the festivities. 


I’m anticipating a high need.


So…with that thought in mind, I dragged my husband to the tile store to contemplate options.  His eyes nearly rolled into the back of his head from the excitement. Still, with a vision of the lineup in front of the boy’s scary bathroom, he helped me pick out tiles.  See, it’s not about whether we need this, but how soon.  Even more important than the need is the deadline that looms over us.


When writing a suspense, and creating the Big Event, there needs to be an immediacy or a deadline to the Event.  An end date.  The world will blow up on July 7, 2011.  The Aliens will attack on Friday 13th.   The Russian sub will fire as soon as they find the Red October.  The bride will walk down the aisle on April 29th.   In other words, the hero/heroine/readers must believe that the threat/Big Event will happen, and soon. 

 Dante's Peak Poster

We accomplish this by dropping in foreshadowing.  In Dante’s Peak, it’s the boiling gasses in the hot springs, and the fact that the volcano guys can read their charts and in their experience they know an eruption will happen soon.  In one of my other favorites, Bird on a Wire, wherever the hero/heroine turn, the bad guys aren’t far behind…in fact, they might even be one step ahead.  They need to track down the one man who can help free them before he is murdered. 


You may not have this foreshadowing or immediacy in the first act of the story.  However, by the second act, and definitely by the middle of the book there needs to be a ticking clock or countdown to the Big Event.  Whether it’s the mounting pressure inside the volcano, or the harried hostage taker losing his patience, or the plane running out of fuel…ramp up the immediacy of the Big Event.


How have you made your Big Event immediate? Have you increased the urgency of your suspense by even moving up the Big Event?  (another great technique to ramping up your story!). 


Join me next week when we talk about the last element of the Big Event…


Susie May   

The Big Event…make it personal!

The last two weeks we talked about the key to creating a suspense is  the big EVENT that awaits the characters – either a positive or negative event that looms at the end of the story, one they either know about or don’t, but that has the effect of raising the tension as they draw closer (or are kept from it). 

 The Princess Bride Poster

Think about it – if we didn’t believe there would truly be an invasion of aliens, then we would have laughed our way through Independence Day.  If we didn’t believe the Russians and the Americans could wage World War 3, then we would have never had  the cold war (and the Hunt For Red October). If we didn’t believe that Buttercup might not marry Wesley, that Prince Humperdinck  would indeed kill him or even marry her before Wesley could rescue her, then we would have stopped watching/reading when she and Wesley were reunited. 


There needs to be something looming at the end of the story, a Big Event that they want to avoid or achieve.   We need to believe that the threat is real, that the bad guy WILL pull the trigger, or detonate the bomb, or that the volcano will erupt.   


The first element in creating this event is making it Believable.


The Big Event also needs to be Compelling.  See, if it doesn’t affect the life of a character (that we love), then we won’t really care.  Or, if it doesn’t affect them in a way that matters to us, we also don’t care.


So what Buttercup doesn’t win the man of her dreams?   What if she is marrying Prince Humperdinck…who really loves her?  What if she loves him?  But no, Humperdinck is trying to kill her.  Big difference. 


Even, Compelling.  For the Big Event to matter, it needs to get personal.


I spent the past week in Iowa.  Nice place. Warm.  Big fields.  But I was supposed to leave on Sunday morning.  I ended up spending two days waiting for a flight out of Moline, IA after the tornados shut down a runway (or something like that…I’m still not sure).  I often watch the news about people being stranded in airports….and while I care, I didn’t quite care like I did when it became personal.  When it happened to me.  Or, someone I loved. 


Making the Big Event Compelling is about making it personal.  Let the hero or heroine walk in on the situation/crime, or make them targets.  Maybe they are caught up in it – like Dante’s Peak (the eruption of a volcano), or a floor.  This compelling aspect can be personal, or it can be peripheral – meaning it can affect loved ones.


Just a note here:  If you are making the event peripheral, make the compelling element reasonable/realistic.  You’re not going to be afraid of a volcano erupting on your mother if she lives in North Dakota.  If she lives in Hawaii, however, that’s a different story.  In my romantic suspense, Expect the Sunrise, I made the Big Event compelling by taking my heroine’s father hostage.  She doesn’t know this, but the reader does, and it adds to the compelling aspect of the story.


How is your Big Event Compelling? Have you made it personal? Peripheral?  Is it reasonable? 


Tomorrow we’ll be talking about yet another element that will help you build your Big Event…

Susie May