Tag Archives: suspense



It’s been months since I posted to Building a Better Story. Every week my posting deadline rolls by and my guilt and shame grow. I needed absolution:   n.  the act of absolving; a freeing from blame or guilt; release from consequences, obligations, or penalties. Toward  that, I committed to reading a favorite author’s entire series and writing reviews. Meet D.V. Berkom.

Reading was the easy part. I had a long round-trip plane ride over the holidays and immersed myself in books .5 through 6. Hardly penance. I can’t get enough of Leine Basso adventures. By the time I finished the series, I was hooked and anticipating the next book. I didn’t have to wait long.  Absolutionreleased on all platforms on January 26th! (Congratulations to D.V. Berkom)2018-1381-dv-berkom-absolution.jpg

And I haven’t wasted any time freeing myself from my guilt. I’ve found Absolution in Leine Basso, the kick-ass former government trained assassin turned “good guy” operative for SHEN, a non-profit group fighting human trafficking. What could be a more noble occupation than rescuing innocent people (and animals) stolen and sold for profit? But Leine doesn’t stop with SHEN rescue assignments, she fights evil where she finds it, including coming to terms with her own dark past.

Leine has encountered the devil herself in the form of the sexy, powerful and really, really mean French-born terrorist, Salome.

In Absolution, Leine must sever ties with her employer and everyone she loves to flush Salome out of hiding and stop her from an attack Leine fears is coming.

But where—and when?


With her signature relentless pace, author DV Berkom has delivered an international race from London to Edinburgh to L.A. to stop Salome’s mad scheme that hinges on killing Leine, before it’s too late. The story is populated with friends and foes who may, or may not be who they claim, and plot twists enough to cause vertigo. In Berkom’s Leine Basso Thrillers, nothing can be counted on except Leine’s resolute pursuit of justice and dogged persistence in protecting whom she loves— even if it might kill her.

Written in a modern, West Coast casual style, the language is believable, smart and appropriate to the situations and action. Berkom’s story structure is perfectly constructed, the plot unfolds logically yet often surprisingly, and the characters reveal sufficient depth for their roles. I was drawn in by the bright descriptions and detailed settings, at time having to shake myself to focus back into my room.


Does Leine find the absolution she seeks? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Absolution is an all-consuming, heart-thumping  read, hard to put down, and one of the 7.5 best Leine Basso Thrillers. I’ve loved them all! I can’t wait for number 8.

About DV Berkom:

full_sht_crop-bwAfter years of moving around the country and skipping off to locations that could have been movie sets, she wrote her first novel and was hooked. Over a dozen novels later, she now makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Mark, and several imaginary characters who like to tell her what to do.

Her most recent books include Absolution, Dark ReturnThe Last Deception, Vigilante Dead, A Killing Truth, and Cargo. Currently, she’s hard at work on her next thriller.


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On the Edge—The Aqus Literary Speakeasy —189 H Street Petaluma—January 29th 7-9 PM

@ Aqus Cafe, Petaluma CA

@ Aqus Cafe, Petaluma CA

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Tension, Suspense and Conflict in Your Writing #1

“Tension is the Mother of Fiction” ~Jerome Stern



According to Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction (W.W. Norton and Company 2000), “When tension and immediacy combine, the story begins.” Stern advises the writer that tension is created out of conflict: between characters, between the characters and forces of nature, society, or vampires. Characters may even have conflict with themselves. Tension is integral to all aspects to storytelling. Tension is part of what involves the reader in the story—“the more you get readers to feel and visualize the scene, the more vivid the tension….” (Stern) Tension may resolve, end, or continue at the end of the story, but the story remains memorable after the cover is closed on it if the tension lingers.

Alice La Plant, in The Making of a Story—A Norton Guide to Creative Writing (W.W. Norton and Company, 2007), defines tension as “the juxtaposition of two opposing forces.”

My dictionary (www.dictionary.com) lists two definitions that fit:
—mental or emotional strain; stress
—situation or condition of hostility, suspense, or uneasiness

In his Revision & Self-Editing—Techniques for transforming your first draft into a finished novel, James Scott Bell (Writer’s Digest Books, 2008) says “modulating tension is one of the keys to writing fiction.”


Stern identifies suspense “as the way you get your audience to worry.” It’s essential to any narrative; it’s the stakes. Suspense is that element that keeps your reader wondering what will happen next—“hoping for one resolution and fearing others.”

LaPlant defines suspense as “The state of being uncertain, unresolved. The sense that something of dramatic importance is about to happen.”

Dictionary.com says: a state or condition of mental uncertainty or excitement, as in awaiting a decision or outcome, usually accompanied by a degree of apprehension or anxiety.


LaPlant links conflict to tension: “Tension arising from opposite forces that is considered necessary by some to sustain a reader’s interest.”

The conflict—crisis—resolution model is the most predominant model for story telling. This is the model that defines a story as having an arc, or the Freitag triangle, named for the 19th century literary critic who developed the theory. Freitag identified five stages of the short-story: 1) the beginning exposition where the characters, setting and situation are introduced; 2) the rising action where the characters feel increasingly intense conflict; 3) the climax or the culmination of the conflict; 4) the falling action, denouement, when the tension is eased; 5) the resolution where the story ends.

This is the model taught in schools and posits that there are three kinds of conflict, those Stern lists under tension: man against man, man against nature, man against himself.

It is not the only model for stories! But it is a good starting point to understand the importance of suspense-tension-conflict in a work of fiction or creative non-fiction.


   [v. kuhhttp://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/dictionary/graphics/luna/thinsp.pngn-flikt; n. kon-flikt]

verb (used without object)

1. to come into collision or disagreement; be contradictory, at variance, or in opposition; clash: The account of one eyewitness conflicted with that of the other. My class conflicts with my going to the concert.

2. to fight or contend; do battle.


3. a fight, battle, or struggle, especially a prolonged struggle; strife.

4. controversy; quarrel: conflicts between parties.

5. discord of action, feeling, or effect; antagonism or opposition, as of interests or principles: a conflict of ideas.

6. a striking together; collision.

7. incompatibility or interference, as of one idea, desire, event, or activity with another: a conflict in the schedule.


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