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Mastering Suspense, Structure, and Plot by Jane Cleland

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Chapter Nine

Get into Your Readers’ Heads

Betrayal is the only truth that sticks.

—Arthur Miller

Stability vs. Confusion and Betrayal

Most people long for stability. In fact, safety (sometimes expressed as security) places second on Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs, just after physiology. Think about that—after we know we have enough food to eat, water to drink, and air to breathe, the next thing we strive for is a safe, secure, and stable environment.

In much the same way, readers crave order, not chaos. In crime fiction, when a murder occurs or is threatened, the smooth order of things is disrupted. The antagonist has betrayed society’s rules, and sometimes the betrayal is personal. Citizens are fearful and confused. By the end of ...

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