Patricia Highsmith, known for her psychological thrillers like The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train, shows us in Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction how there is no secret of success in writing, except individuality, or call it personality.
Nobody can’t deny she had a great deal of personality. For instance, in Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Currey wrote that Highsmith once attended a London cocktail party with a gigantic handbag that contained a head of lettuce and a hundred snails who she said were her companions for the evening.
Highsmith stated that early in the development, the writer must ask these crucial questions:
Is the hero going to emerge from this victor or vanquished?
Is the atmosphere one of comedy, tragedy, or both mixed?
Or it is a kind of flat reporting of events and cruel fate for the reader to make of what he wishes?
According to Andrew Wilson (Beautiful Shadow), her personal life was a troubled one; she was an alcoholic who never had an intimate relationship that lasted for more than a few years. The author of Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction tells that as for life’s little difficulties, they are myriad.
Once when I had everything settled about a new apartment in Manhattan—advance rent paid, the lease signed, the movers ready—I was informed that I could not have it because it was a professional apartment. Writers are not professionals, because ‘their clients do not come to them.’ I thought of writing to the Department of Housing or whoever made this law, ‘You have no idea how many characters ring my doorbell and come to me every day and I absolutely need them for my existence,’ but I never wrote this, only reflected that prostitutes could probably qualify, but writers couldn’t.
Besides, she considers that surprising yourself and the reader are important; however it comes with an effort.
It is a cheap and trick merely to surprise and shock the reader, especially at the expense of logic. And a lack of invention on the writer’s part cannot be covered up by sensational action and clever prose. It is also a kind of laziness to write the obvious, which does not entertain really.
The ideal is an unexpected turn of the events, reasonably consistent with the characters of the protagonists. Stretch the reader’s credulity, his sense of logic, to the utmost—it is quite elastic—but don’t break it. In this way, you will write something new, surprising and entertaining both to yourself and the reader.
Patricia Highsmith says that writing is a way of organizing experience and life itself but being read by lots of people helps to boost one’s morale
I think the majority of writers, living a Robinson Crusoe existence with no hope of seeing another human being as long as they lived, would still write poems, short stories and books with whatever material there was at hand. Writing is a way of organizing experience and life itself, and the need of this is still present through an audience may not be.
However, I think most painters and writers like to think of their work being seen and read by lots of people, and emotionally this sense of contact is of great importance to their morale.