Author and SCBWI booster Jolie Stekly put up another fantastic writing prompt on her blog, as she does every Monday. If you're a writer, I highly encourage you to follow her Monday Moments. I don't write in her genre or anything close to it, but I still find her prompts extremely creative and useful tools for character development, often helping me enrich the backstory that influences the work even if it never ends up explicitly in print.
I wanted to comment on today's prompt, though, because it made me think about another aspect of my writing. First, here's the prompt:
When did your character go from feeling their best to feeling their worst?
(And it's definitely worth going and reading the post that leads up the prompt!)
As I was thinking about the prompt, I realized for the first time a certain tension in my writing over this question.
Typically in suspense, the slide from best-to-worst happens during the novel, and the drive of the story comes from the character trying to avoid sliding to even worster.
In a psychologically-oriented novel, the slide from best-to-worst is often in the backstory, having provided the foundation for the current story and guiding the character's response to it.
What I realized then is that in psychological suspense, you often have a slide from best-to-worst in the background, haunting the character as he or she confronts a slide from a best-as-it-can-get to new-worst, and tries to avoid falling into all time worst.
I suppose in some ways this is obvious, but for me, at least, it really helped re-clarify one of the main differences between psychological suspense and ordinary suspense. It's that sense of, "Oh, crap, I've been there before, and I can't go back, please, no, don't let it all fall apart on me again after I've worked so hard."
So thanks, Jolie!