Lessons in Writing from Alfred Hitchcock.


As a child, it was watching the film Picnic at Hanging Rock that fired my imagination, but it was Alfred Hitchcock that made me want to become a writer. This may sound strange, but I grew up heavily influenced by film. Watching images on the screen helped me to see the images within my own mind. As Alfred Hitchcock played such a huge influence on my life, here are some lessons I have learnt from him regarding both writing and suspense.

‘The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them’.

Replace the word ‘films’ with ‘books’ and this statement can be pretty well spot on. Our fears may not just be of monsters or murderers, but of the fears we may face in our everyday lives; betrayal, abuse, infidelity, bullying. We’ve all experienced fear at one time or another; it’s a basic human emotion. We’re writers because this is how we express ourselves best and what better way to reach our audience than through emotion.

‘The length of the film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder’.

As readers, it’s exciting to read a book that you can’t put down. We may even stay up late into the night to find out what’s going to happen next all the way to the very end. Readers have become hooked and can be eager to read more of that author’s work, and as writers, this is exactly what we want to happen – for our readers to keep reading.

‘Drama is life with the dull bits taken out’.

No-one wants to watch everything that goes on in a person’s life in order to get to the best parts – even reality television doesn’t do that. It’s the same for our stories. The reader is more interested in the plot; the action. Sure we need scenes with less action, but they need to help move the plot forward. This is when we need good editing and beta readers to help us out. An extra pair of eyes can help us weed out the dull bits to help keep our story on track.

‘Always make the audience suffer as much as possible’.

Due to the nature of traditional publishing, authors are well known to have long spells between books, especially in a series. This is one of the reasons why authors have taken to self-publishing. Yes, authors want their readers to be eager for their next book, but if they are expected to wait too long, readers may well lose interest altogether. Readers will move on to another author willing to fill that gap. This is why authors having a backlist, as well as writing short stories and novellas, has proved popular. Fulfilling this need for readers helps ensure a loyal customer base.

Have you learnt any lessons through film? What influenced you to become a writer?

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