A dominant theme of horror movies is the concept of the unknown. Who’s behind you? Who’s on the other side? Horror movies are famous for making people question continuously, a great way of building suspense in writing.
In this writing exercise, you receive a call from someone who seems to know you. However, you have no idea who they are. What do they say and how do you respond?
Tips On Building Suspense In Writing
This writing exercise is not limited to suspense. Depending on your approach, you can easily turn this into a different genre such as mystery, horror, and even romance. Though, when creating this exercise, my initial thought is suspense. So, I’m going to suggest some tips on how to write suspense.
I’m no writing professional, but I do enjoy a good mystery or thriller during my spare time. The mystery genre and the suspense genre are considered cousin genres by WritersDigest. In that article, they also mention their nine tips to writing suspense fiction.
They make a good distinction between suspense and mystery. They use the example of an assassination crisis of the president. While a suspense would begin with dropping weapons, mysteries would begin with the knowledge or hint of the assassinated president. “In a nutshell, suspense creates drama before the crisis event while mystery starts its thrill ride after the crisis event.”
My own tips to add to writing suspense include putting yourself in your character’s shoes. In other words, if they aren’t worried, it’s likely the reader won’t be either. Also, use your characters to drive curiosity: when is something going to happen? Your readers can know what is going to happen but when is it going to happen? Or, something bad is going to happen but when?
Drop little hints along the way to fuel the suspense. A good suspense reveals bits at a time through dialogue or exposition. It should answer a question or many questions but leaves the reader hungry for more. In essence, it should build toward the climax of your story.
For example, in terms of this writing exercise, your character may start by feeling confused which escalates to fear after getting multiple calls. The character then realizes that the caller is inside his or her home or is suspicious when something is out of place such as the TV turned off when it was on a few moments ago.
Ready To Write?
These are only a few tips on how to write suspense. While your writing doesn’t have to reflect this theme, it’ll be a great way to practice building suspense in writing. Let’s go back to the writing exercise.
You receive a call from someone who seems to know you. However, you have no idea who they are. What do they say and how do you respond? What happens next?
Imagine this: you get an exclusive offer to be part of the main cast of the most anticipated film of the year. They give you two options: to play as the hero or the villain. In this writing exercise, we would like to know which would you decide to play?
A hero (male) or heroine (female) is the protagonist (the main character) of the movie. They combat hardships through strength, bravery, and ingenuity (intelligence). Heroes or heroines perform good deeds for honour and for the common good rather gain fame and fortune. He or she may have some special quality or talent that distinguishes them from the rest of the characters. This can also be an attribute.
There has been debate over the differences between a hero and heroine. Male heroes are often portrayed as physically capable, witty, faithful, determined, chivalrous, and many more fluffy adjectives. Heroines, on the other hand, are argued to shed their feminine traits for them to possess heroic characteristics. Nina wrote an interesting article detailing her thoughts on women heroes and their role in literature, film, and pop culture.
Some common examples of fictional heroes are the ones from superhero movies such as Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Iron Man, and so on. However, Harry from Harry Potter and Thomas from The Maze Runner also classify as a hero. Great fictional heroine examples include Hermione Granger from Harry Potter and Diana Prince from Wonder Woman.
The villain (male) or villainess (female) is often the antagonist (the opposing character) of the movie. They cause conflict and are an obstacle or provide obstacles so the protagonist has difficulty in achieving his or her goal. In cartoons and fiction, villains are often portrayed as scheming. Cackling with glee and rubbing their hands in glee as they plot for world domination or world takeover is an iconic scene.
However, Ben Bova recommends that authors do not include villains in their work. He states, “In the real world there are no villains. No one actually sets out to do evil… Fiction mirrors life. Or, more accurately, fiction serves as a lens to focus on what they know in life and bring its realities into sharper, clearer understanding for us. There are no villains cackling and rubbing their hands in glee as they contemplate their evil deeds. There are only people with problems, struggling to solve them.”
Additionally, there are debates that heroes and villains are driven by different motivations.
Many writers also seek to create sympathetic villains: a villain who has good intentions but are deterred to an antagonistic path along the way. This is an attempt to add realism and a human connection.
A quote by Joseph Brodsky sums up villains and arguably sympathetic villains quite well. “Life–the way it really is–is a battle not between Bad and Good, but between Bad and Worse.”
Which Would You Choose?
While the hero character still dominates most films, literature, and shows, the line between heroes and villains have begun to blur. A quote by Joseph Brodsky sums this up quite well.
“Life–the way it really is–is a battle not between Bad and Good, but between Bad and Worse.”
For this writing exercise, we like to know which character you would like to play? Personally, I wouldn’t like to play either. Three cheers for sidekicks.
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Learning English doesn’t strictly come from textbooks, quizzes, and worksheets. It can be as simple as watching a movie. And who doesn’t love a good movie? Before we introduce our movie recommendations for English learners, how do movies help with English fluency and grammar?
Learn English By Watching Movies?
Everyone has different learning styles. However, I think everyone can agree that regardless of what you’re learning, it’s much easier when you’re having fun. So, what better way to learn than by relaxing with your favourite English movie? Learning by watching movies will give train your ear to getting familiar with intonation and conversational English.
It’s important to know when to stress certain syllables in English as it makes for easier understanding. Sometimes the entire meaning of your sentence can change if you stress certain sounds than others. Learning through movies makes it easier to hear these sounds than from a computer-generated audio file. Some of these audio files also sound robotic which makes conversations sound awkward. Besides, you’ll likely to pay much more attention to characters you love than a random voice.
The goal of many English learners is to learn to speak fluently. Some phrases and idioms you have learned are likely not commonly used in everyday conversation. But then again, it does depend on the person. It’s rare for native English speakers to say “it’s raining cats and dogs” than “it’s raining pretty hard.” This is not to say that movie dialogue is all-natural sounding. They too can sound strange when applied in real conversations such as “we’ve got company!”
By doing a quick Google search, you can see the complaints on bad movie dialogue. In addition, if you read a lot, you will notice a difference in movie and book dialogue. If you’re wondering which is the correct form to study, the answer varies. However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t learn a thing or two on how to speak fluently from movies. We strongly believe it’s a great starting point for learning how to speak English fluently.
Our Movie Recommendations
Now, let’s get to the fun part. Here are five movie recommendations for English learners. Even if you’re simply looking for a good movie for the weekend, we’d still recommend these films.
The Jungle Book
Mowgli (Neel Sethi) was raised by a family of wolves since birth but is forced to leave when Shere Khan, a menacing tiger, senses his presence and issues a warning that he will kill Mowgli if he does not leave. As Mowgli goes on his journey, he meets a no-nonsense panther and a free-spirited bear. He also encounters dangerous predators such a giant python and ape. Mowgli learns valuable life lessons and his journey inevitably leads him to fun and adventure while he discovers and accepts his identity.
The Jungle Book is one of my personal favourites and a strong recommendation to anyone. It’s humorous, exciting, and thrilling to follow Mowgli on his adventure. If you’re a fan of the Disney version, this adaptation will definitely not disappoint. But be careful, the main theme song may get stuck in your head for a few days.
The Maze Runner
Thomas, a teenage boy, wakes up in an ascending lift with no memory of who or where he is. He arrives at the center of a large maze known as The Glade and realizes other youths like him have also been dumped here. Thomas quickly becomes a part of their group and gets promoted to a runner–those who run the maze during the day looking for a way out. With Teresa, the only girl, Thomas works to convince his friends that the only way to escape is through the maze.
This film is littered with made-up slang, so those just beginning to learn English should proceed with caution. The Maze Runner is based on the books of the same title by James Dashner. It’s the first movie of an action-packed trilogy. If you’ve read the books and watched the movie, then you should be aware of the differences between the two. The movie is a simplified version of the book and carries out great action scenes. The cast is also brilliant. If you’re a fan of young adult films, this one and its sequels The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure is worth checking out.
Married couple Simon and Robyn have relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles after Simon gets a new job. There, he meets his former high school classmate, Gordo. Soon after, Gordo begins dropping by the couple’s home unannounced and delivering unwanted gifts. While Robyn initially doesn’t sense anything wrong, Simon has his doubts.
Another movie recommendation is this psychological thriller. If you’re a fan of darker themes and open-ended (unsolved) endings, you’ll likely enjoy The Gift. In a nutshell, it’s a revenge story that makes you wonder until the end.
Cady Heron transfers to a public high school from Africa. She finds herself mingling with the popular girls known as “the plastics” by the school. Cady soon realizes that her group of friends earned this nickname.
If you’re into chick flicks, Mean Girls is a western classic. It plays upon different tropes of what you may see in a local high school. While it’s meant to be humorous and exaggerated, it does stress on the theme of being who you are and to be cautious of who you hang out with. Mean Girls is a film that most–if not all–teenage girls can relate to. Coming back to watch this film as an adult, you’ll enjoy a good laugh.
The last of our movie recommendations series for English learners is the Disney film, Up. Carl Fredricksen is a 78-year-old balloon salesman who achieves his lifelong dream of flying to the South American wilderness with thousands of balloons tied to his house. However, when a young boy named Russell comes aboard, things start to get a little crazy.
Up is a fun and touching film about the journey of Carl, Russell, and Dug, a golden retriever who can “talk” using the collar around his neck. It’s one of the well-received films by critics and well-loved by fans of different ages.
Your Movie Recommendations?
We’ve recommended our movies. So, what are yours? Do you have any particular favourites that helped you learn English, cope with a hard time, made you laugh uncontrollably, or have taught you something? These aren’t our only movie recommendations either. From thriller to comedy to must-see films with certain actors and actresses, U-Dictionary will be putting out a variety of movie recommendations suitable for everyone.
The phrase “a blessing in disguise” is a common English idiom. It means a good thing that appeared bad at first. In other words, it is used to describe something good that you initially thought was bad.
Here are three example sentences for your reference.
“Losing that job was a blessing in disguise. It made me pursue my dream of being an entrepreneur.”
“Dropping that class was a blessing in disguise. He ended up taking another class which helped in boosting his overall GPA.”
“Her injury was a blessing in disguise, for she got some much-needed rest.”
2. It’s not rocket science
Another English phrase is “it’s not rocket science.” It is often used as a standalone. In other words, you do not necessarily use it as part of a sentence. This phrase is used to say that the task at hand is not complicated.
Here are three example sentences for your reference.
“You simply file the paperwork. It’s not rocket science.”
“Changing the oil in your car is easy. Don’t worry, it’s not rocket science.”
“While fixing my broken garage door is not rocket science, I’m still having trouble with it.”
The phrase “foot in the door” is used in a figurative sense. It is used to describe a way in where progress will be made later. Here are three example sentences for your reference.
“You could take on an easier job to get your foot in the door.”
“I didn’t have the qualifications for the job I wanted, so I took this one to get my foot in the door.”
“New graduates are always looking to get their foot in the door with large companies.”
2. A wolf in sheep’s clothing
Another English phrase is “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” It is used to describe someone with immoral or malicious intentions disguised by kindness. In other words, it is used as cautionary advice to describe someone who necessarily cannot be trusted. Here are three example sentences for your reference.
“He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
“In the end, she was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
“He was trusted until they realized that he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”