Not the one off the southern tip of Spain. I’m talking about the former pro
wrestler, Dwayne Johnson. He’s an element of surprise.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a formidable foe against Randy Orton and John
Cena. As The Rock, he entertained screaming fans in the squared circle with
24-hour trash-talking, power-drill moves and bulging biceps. Plus, he’s a good looking guy. With a killer smile. The Rock shifted away from body slams and into a pink tutu. Dwayne Johnson played the tooth fairy along with Julie Andrews. So, when Dwayne Johnson took the driver’s seat in the flick, Faster; I wanted to ride shotgun.
I’m a sucker for the who-dunnit genre and its first cousin, I-didn’t-know-he-dunnit.
In this movie, Dwayne plays a vigilante hunting down the gangsters who murdered
his brother. It’s the classic cops ‘n’ robbers theme—with a twist. Dwayne’s fresh out of prison with a mean streak a mile wide. He drives a vintage ride that all the men in the theater cheered for during the chase scenes. Billy Bob Thornton plays the slime ball, red-neck cop who is addicted to heroin. He’s on the trail of this vigilante, hoping this capture will bring him redemption. His partner thinks he’s a creep. His ex-wife thinks he’s a bigger creep. His pudgy son doesn’t know what to think.
Billy Bob turns out to be the bad guy. I didn’t see that one coming.
After leaving the theater, I wondered: How did the screenwriters keep me
guessing? I answered that question with Internet research. The Writers Digest website posted an article by Simon Wood (www.writersdigest.com). It lists nine tricks to writing suspense fiction. Here are the highlights:
* For a good suspense story to work, what’s at stake must be stated at the
* Let the reader see the viewpoints of the protagonist and the antagonist.
* Create a really good villain. The bad guy is very visible. The best ones are
smart and motivated.
* Create dilemmas that keep the protagonist in awkward challenges.
* Pile on the problems. Give the protagonist more things than he can handle.
Not bad advice, Mr. Wood. So, I clicked over to crime novelist Michele Martinez.
Martinez is a former New York City federal prosecutor (www.michelemartinez.com). Martinez shares her struggles in a refreshing manner. Here are some observations that improved her writing:
I realized that generally the suspense novels I found the most engrossing were written in the third person and frequently told the story from more than one viewpoint. I had been working in the first person, but ultimately this felt too limiting technically. I wanted to show the reader action beyond things that
happened directly to my protagonist.
I realized I just hadn't structured my book carefully enough. I needed to pay more attention to the transitions between chapters, to give the reader that burning desire to keep turning the pages. I needed to hold back more, tease more.
Now, I know the secrets that Joe and Tony Gayton, the screenwriters for Faster, know. They employed point of view techniques and then reworked structural elements to produce the quintessential I-didn’t-know-he-dunnit flick. If I read about those techniques earlier, then, I would have figured out that Billy Bob was the bad guy.