Put SHIVER by Allie Reynolds on your January reading list! The tension will have you shivering with anticipation as you try to figure out who is behind it all.
Just in case you need the warning: THIS POST CONTAINS SEVERAL PLOT SPOILERS.
If you are writing a mystery, thriller, or any other story that relies on tension, you would do well to study this book. The author uses four techniques to notch up the tension.
Not only did Allie Reynolds pick a dangerous sport, snow boarding, she set the story in a dangerous place. Le Rocher is a fictional resort area in the French Alps. A glacier makes for dangerous footing as areas that have not been patrolled in some time may conceal a crevasse. Heavy snowfalls mean that these some patrols have to set off detonations to trigger avalanches when they will do the least harm. Wondering out of the designated areas can mean death.
This setting limits the character’s movements. But so does the fact that the lift quits running so they cannot get down the mountain in the dark. When the electricity in the guest building fails, no one wants to roam the halls of the mostly deserted building. Especially after one member of the group disappears.
Dual Time Lines
Reynolds could have told the story by setting it in the present with the reunion. Then pertinent information from ten years earlier during a snow boarding competition could have been given in flashbacks.
Instead of doing this, Reynolds uses dual time lines. The story starts in the present, gets to an unbearably tense point, then flips back to the past. Then it is back to the present. Then back to the past and so on.
It sounds like it might be hard to follow but Reynolds makes it easy. Each chapter begins with “10 years ago” or “Present.” But just when she has you on the edge of your seat, flip! She sends you to the other story line.
It also helps that the narrator is unreliable. Readers could probably argue about just how unreliable Milla is. There are things that she lies to herself about and there are things that she thinks she knows . . . and that she convinces you she knows . . . that are 100% incorrect. Some times it is because she just that good at lying to herself. Other times it is because she isn’t the only unreliable character.
The vast majority of Reynold’s characters lie to themselves and to each other about something. Which, of course, means that they are lying to the readers.
All of this works together to create a deliciously tense story. Read it to see how she does it.