Killer Serials Giveaway & Coffin Hop '13 Finale - Four Keys To Frightening Fiction - Pt. 4 - Murderous Tension

Happy Halloween, gang! I'm here to put a bow (or should that be noose?) on this year's Coffin Hop by talking about the final ingredient to writing frightening fiction--creating tension.

But first, I want to share a special giveaway event I'm taking part in…

Just in time for Halloween, some Killer Serials you can sink your teeth into!

Serial and episodic fiction are becoming more and more popular with readers in the digital age. And as many of you know, my Moonsongs series is exactly that, so I'm pretty passionate about the concept.

Who would enjoy serialized stories? Fans of television, for one. Many of these stories are built around the TV model, leaving you craving more at the end of each episode. Others who might enjoy serials are the folks who don't have time to cram entire novels into their daily lives, but would love to read fiction with a purpose. These aren't short stories so much as sagas broken into bite-sized pieces.

I know for my Moonsongs books, I really work hard to give the reader a feeling of fulfillment with each story, but also leave them wanting to see what happens next.
Sound like something you'd enjoy? Luckily, there are several fantastic authors doing them! And beginning today, you can enter for a chance to win some of the most exciting serialized content going--plus, you can sample several of these authors for free. (Including me!)

Here's the rundown of the authors and stories involved in the is special giveaway:

Some Killer Serials you should consider sampling

Andrew Leon: The Shadow Spinner Serie
(34 parts, 40ish pages each) Tiberius has always thought of himself as a normal 10-year-old boy, at least until the day his mother finally decides to tell him about his father, and she tells him things that convince him that one of them is crazy, and he's pretty sure it's not him. That is until the Man with No Eyes shows up and his father falls out of the sky.

Susan Kaye Quinn: The Debt Collector Series 
(9 Volumes, 50ish pages each, all complete, (for you risk-averse readers) first one free) What's your life worth on the open market? A debt collector can tell you precisely.

EJ Wesley: Moonsong Series 
(5th coming in December - no end point necessarily planned, but they are coming in 3-book clusters *6th in January* for satisfying individual story arcs; link to the first one FREE) Jenny Moonsong recently inherited the title of "monster hunter" and an ancient tribal journal/how-to manual passed down by her Apache ancestors. The Moonsongs books follow her adventures as she battles the dark supernatural denizens of the world in a series of action-packed, urban fantasy novelettes.

RaShelle Workman: The Cindy Chronicles 
(4 published of 6 volumes) From a seemingly insignificant word comes the greatest of fairytales... Cinderella is a witch and she's been asked to save a world she never knew existed. 

Hart Johnson: A Shot in the Light Series 
(10 episodes, 100 pages each, 4th available today and the first is free) Deadliest virus in a century, or a social experiment gone awry? Sidney Knight begins to notice inconsistencies in what people are being told and what's going on as half the population dies of the flu... or is it the vaccine?

Visit the authors participating in Killer Serials giveaway:

Andrew -
Susan -
E.J. -
RaShelle -
Hart - 

And here's how you can enter to win some of these great stories!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now to end my first ever Coffin Hop! I've had a blast taking part this year, and I've met a ton of great horror authors. Be sure to check the site and join up for next year if you think you'd like share in the scare! 

Being a writing blog, I decided to cover what I thought were the basics to weaving a little thrill and chill into your stories. My full hop schedule looked like this:

Monday, 10/28 - The Sinister Senses
Tuesday, 10/29 - Oh So Ordinarily Creepy
Wednesday, 10/30 - Mining The Darkness Within
Thursday,  10/31 - HAPPY HALLOWEEN - A Murderous Tension

Also want to mention that the organizers behind Coffin Hop have put together a fantastic collection of horror stories to benefit an even better cause. All proceeds from the Death By Drive-In anthology will go to to promote childhood reading.

*click the image below for more details on the anthology*

As for my giveaway, simply leave a comment on any of my Coffin Hop posts and I'll enter you into a drawing for one of the following items:

1 Digital copy of Death By Drive-In

1 Paper Copy of Death By Drive-In (US ONLY)

- 2 Digital Copies of Moonsongs, Anthology 1 AND my latest, Dragon's Game, Moonsongs Book 4 (1 set to each winner)

1 Signed paper copy of Moonsongs, Anthology 1 (US ONLY)

Lastly, I'll be highlighting one of my fellow Coffin Hoppers at the end of every post--so let's get to it!

A Murderous Tension

Tension in fiction is a weird--and often fickle--thing. It can be created or destroyed with a single word, description, or scene. And while it's important for any kind of story, it's absolutely dire for horror and thrillers.

A reader has to feel the threat pressing down on them like the brutal heat of a summer day in Phoenix, Arizona. An inescapable anxiety has to blanket the story, and the only way out from under it is to read The End. 

No small task! So how do we do it? Here are few quick cheats:

Start in the middle - in medias res is a commonly refereed to concept of beginning a story in the middle of action. It creates insta-tension.

Example: Don't let the reader get all comfy-cozy by getting up to speed with grandma  leisurely driving them through the park on the way to soccer practice. Instead, slap their ass behind the wheel of a car going 150 MPH on the Santa Monica Freeway with a couple dozen well-armed cops chasing them, and a drug lord in the backseat threatening to kill their spouse if they slow down. It works.

Mystery - Uncertainty creates tension. Arriving at a camp known for its unexplained, horrible accidents. A newspaper article about a series of grizzly unsolved murders. Exploring a 'supposedly' haunted house. It intrigues us. It also scares the jeepers out of us.

False Trails - Let the reader chase their tails a bit. Let them presume, guess, and postulate. Then yank the freaking rug out from under them! If you're going to create a scary, tense story, the reader can never feel comfortable. One way of doing that is by encouraging them to guess wrong.

Love and hate, get it straight … or maybe don't - Just like real life, when your characters don't get along, it creates friction. And friction creates--you guessed it--tension for the reader! Even if it's THE love interest for your protagonist, have them fight like cats and water! The result will have your reader on edge, and when you throw that werewolf in the mix, it'll send them over it. :)

How do you work tension into your writing? Any favorite books or films that kept you biting your nails the entire time?

Thanks again for riding along with my Coffin Hop, and have safe and fun Halloween! 


Author Julianne Snow has put together an awesome eight-part flash fiction piece for her Coffin Hop! The link above will take you to part one--and I highly encourage you to check it from the start. :)

Like most all Coffin Hoppers, she's also doing a giveaway of some of her work if  you comment. So be sure to give her a click!

You can check the entire hop below:


  1. The television model TOTALLY fits. I am trying to have a big thing HAPPEN in each, but they aren't really resolving so much as finding the next problem. I might be evil that way...

    1. Oh, you're definitely evil Hart--but I don't know if your storytelling tactics are the reason! :P

      I really do try to channel my favorite TV series when I write each "episode" of Moonsongs. Shows like Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Lost, Battle Star Galactica--they all do such a great job of telling great stories in a limited space.

  2. You spoke of my favorite things I love to do.

    Great post, EJ!

    Hugs and chocolate,

    1. Hugs and LOTS of chocolate today, Shelly! :D

  3. I enjoyed your points, EJ. Happy Halloween.

  4. Character friction is the most enjoyable to write.
    Excellent group of serials. I have most of them!

  5. False trails are always fun!

    Have a great Hallowe'en!

  6. There's nothing I love more than great tv that tells an extended story as opposed to the stand-alone episodic format, so I love serialized fiction. Some of these on your list are new to me so I'll have to check them out.

    This has been a great hop. Happy Halloween, EJ!

  7. Hmm, you're right, serials do seem to be cropping up more and more. I think they're neat - reminds me of Dickens :-)
    Awesome giveaway!

  8. Good advice for the mystery/suspense writer, E.J. Keeping the tension level up throughout the novel is so important.

    I'm using the second Moonsong book to get me back to the stationary bike at the gym -- if that's the only time I can read it, it's certain I won't skip an exercise session. :D

    1. Ha! Can I add "motivational author" to my resume? :D Thanks so much for reading them, Patricia!

  9. Whoaaa, dude. *gazes around in a trance-like state* You changed your blog. 0_0
    I like. :)

    Great post, and absolutely true. :D

  10. I have yours and Hart's serials already. Now to find time to read!

  11. Big fan of In Medias Res, big fan of serials -- I got hooked at a young age, thanks to those bargain bins of VHS tapes at Kmart. RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON and FLASH GORDON were a couple of my favorites. Freakin' hilarious!

  12. Great advice! I love In Media Res . . . now if I could just get myself to do that in my own writing. (growls at self) I will keep trying. :) Serials are fun reads!

  13. I think serialized novels are a lot of fun and fit within the schedules of so many readers these days.


“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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