Building Suspense Seminar

How are people going to navigate the podcasts? How will they know where to start or finish?

Will there be photographs, illustrations, a list? How will they be planned out? Will there be an interactive calendar?

Does listening to one podcast prevent you from listening to any others until a later time?

Is the ‘Main character’ highlighted in any way? If you have photographs, is his large or small?

Do you want to limit peoples options when listening to them?

When you follow the links on the postcard or brochure, where does this take you?



Who is a fish out of water? Is it the listener? How are they introduced to the story?

There are lots of instances of ‘themes’, for example, the barking dog, or the man who smashes bottles. We do not need to be told these things are there to know that they are there. I can use these to create foreboding.





Building Suspense

How does one build suspense in a story?

(I am having a little bit of trouble with my pacing, so this is important.)

It’s basically two stages of five steps, divided up.

  • Work Backwards
    Start at the end, work out how to get to that point. Once you know what the big mystery or reveal is, you can start to shroud it.
  • Plant Seeds
    Make sure people know what is going on, that they can follow what’s going on. If you plant enough seeds, they should be able to keep up with the main character, and eventually begin to predict what is going to happen next just before the character does.
  • Give hooks
    Draw people along, hook them in. They need to be following the story.
  • Displace the audience.
    Don’t make it too easy. If they are in unfamiliar terrain, they will sympathise with the protagonist, if the protagonist is also in unfamiliar terrain.
  • Emotive Response
    Make the audience feel, make them empathise, make them sympathise with the characters. If they are in the same place as your main character, that puts them in the same position of mystery and discovery, meaning the story is as much an exploration for them as it is the main character’s.

The audience should be just ahead of the main character.

This makes them smart. This makes them feel clever. It also gives them just enough foresight to see what is going to happen, and then give them enough time to wonder how the characters are going to deal with this.

The second stage goes like this:

  • Location as character
    Make the location organic, real, make it relevant. Make it a metaphor for the story itself, make it matter. Choose your locations for a reason.
  • Foreshadowing
    Dropping clues so that people can see what is coming, but not until it is nearly upon them. If people suspect something is about to happen, that puts them on edge. Tell people what is coming. This can be done a number of ways, but a classic example is the cello in Jaws. It’s a sonic signifier, it’s a theme. We know the shark is there when we hear that sound, so we are set on edge, waiting to see what will happen.
  • Tell Lies
    This is your job, as a storyteller. Tell lies. Make stuff up. If you can also string the audience along a bit, they’re in your world. They respond how you want them to.
  • Character Identification
    Amnesia is a common trope in many stories, because it puts the audience in the same boat as the main character. If we identify, we explore as they so. It makes us empathise with the character more.
  • Counterpoint
    Make things resonate, make them harmonise, make things counterpoint for other things. Get metaphorical, draw comparisons, give things a contrast. By juxtaposing things, you highlight more things about them. Make contrasts.

I have already hit on most of these in my scripts, but I can work them in better. I need to go back and rewrite them with these in mind.
I also need to read more Graham Greene.

The Next Fortnight

I have my stories written, I have started to plan what I need to do next in terms of planning out maps and thinking about my website, but there are others things at play here rather than just layout design.

  • How is it delivered?
    How am I going to package the podcasts themselves? The navigation page for the podcasts will be an important thing to consider in terms of how people interact with it? What order do they go in? How do they know what order to go in? How does this change the way they understand the stories?
  • How does it look?
    What does the website look like? What do the postcards look like? What does the navigation page look like?
  • How does it sound?
    Are there comparisons you can draw with other podcasts, pieces of sound design? Is there music? What does that sound like? What does the narration sound like? How is it delivered?
  • How does the audience interact with it?
    How do they find the website? How does it work when they get there? What process do they go to to get to the stories?
  • Think less about the story and consider the physical thing. The stories are written, they need rewriting, but this is a multi-media piece, consider the other media.

Once you have worked out all of the above, I need to create:

  • Briefing documents.
    All of the above, constructed in such a way as other people could create what I want them to create. How do they know what I want them to do? What should they be looking at or listening to? What sort of research should they be doing? What is the tone of the piece? How can they help me to create this world?
    I need to describe to them what I want, and what I want from them, and then give them ways to help them understand. I will need these in order to progress.

This is not to say that there won’t be a two way interaction. I will need them to come back to me with stuff, ‘I was thinking it could sound like this’, and then it becomes collaborative and we work together on it, but to get everyone to work towards a common goal, I must first define that common goal.

With this in mind, I can start making my stories multidimensional, and we can start working towards building a world.

Personal Map Design

I’m not entirely sure how helpful this will be, but it might come in handy. It’s a customisable map editor. Unfortunately, it only allows me to customise maps of real places, but it looks like it might come in handy. Here’s one I made earlier.

Here's one I made earlier

What to include on a Brochure

Things to Include in a Travel Brochure (from here)


• Brief summary of the setting, with highlights of important places

• Location, including a map

• Geography

• Major cities, Well-known places

• Historic Sites and Landmarks

• Recreation and Outdoor Activities—parks, sports, water

• Entertainment

• Climate and overall weather conditions

• Transportation

• Arts and Culture, including museums, theaters, places to visit

• Languages and Local Dialect

• Food that the area is known for

• Pictures/Graphics

• Additional Information

Interesting Maps

I’ve been looking at how to design maps, and how their design changes depending on their purpose. Here’s a few I thought were interesting.

It’s functional, there’s no denying that.

This map of Africa serves its purpose. I think that’s all that can really be said of it. It’s clean, it gets its points across, it doesn’t mess about. We know exactly what it is, how it works and it gives us the information ina  straightforward way… It relays information, and that’s it. It’s a relatively interesting infographic, but there’s not much design to it, nothing that makes it special.

Crude as they come.

Once again, this image serves its purpose. It makes you think, but the only information here is what is provided. “There are more people here than anywhere else in the world, combined.” Yes. But it doesn’t give us anything else, like comparable statistics. There are no other circles, no other pieces of information given, not even the area of the circle. It’s functionality at its most base.

Home of Television!

This one is a bit more fun. There’s some design elements to it, it’s got some information on it, but it’s also more considered. Even the basic colour palette is more appealing than the others. We’re starting to get somewhere. I enjoyed looking at this and seeing where TV shows are in relation to others. The serif font in the title compared to the sans serif in the information bars, the swatch, even the location icons are more interesting than the previous maps. I think this is a nice piece of design, if not complicated. But arguably, maps shouldn’t be complicated, they should serve a purpose. I am of the mind that, like this one, maps can be functional and still look attractive. Like any good piece of design.

This map is interactive, and so needs to be viewed on the site. This is employing a little more creative input; not only interpreting American states are Sports, and thus conveying information as a unique understand of that information, but it is also clickable, leading to links about each state. There are nice illustrations, it is a lot more fun to interact with. It is also, however, more confusing, potentially. It is a lot busier than the TV map, and could be seen as a bit daunting. Then again, it does impart  a lot more region specific information without getting too text heavy on the initial map, like the TV map risks doing.

And finally:

Oh, maphugger. I think I love this website. I have started following them on tumblr based solely on this exercise. It shows a range of maps with a range of graphic styles, different types of information conveyed and how they are displayed in each one. I think I will be creating a static map, that is to say, not interactive, however I don’t want it to come across as too frightening. How can I do this? What graphics styles can I employ? I have something in mind, but it never hurts to do a little more research.

For now, it is good to have this knowledge and these reference points.

Lots of Projects

So, without realising it, I appear to have taken on a lot of jobs.

The list of projects I am working on now consists of:

  • Malice-Upon-Woe (Multimedia project: My own project.)
  • Lost for Words (ARG: Roz Dean)
  • Untitled (Computer Game: Jeff Chang)
  • Mickey’s Tavern (Film: Steve Dunn)
  • Dennis (Film: Connor Coolbear)
  • Lost (Film: Ryan Cleary)
  • LyfX (Film: Kyle Bayley)
  • Hello World! (Computer Game: Fred Iles)
  • Untitled (Installation: James Peden)

As well as my dissertation and professional practice.

Hello World! and the Installation are not, as of yet, confirmed. I am not sure the amount of involvement I will have in these projects, as with LyfX, however they have accepted my offer of a helping hand if they need it.

Jeff’s computer game is proving to be insanely complicated, and I am not entirely sure if I will be able to fully commit to this project.

Dennis, Mickey’s Tavern, Lost and Lost For Words are under way, however. I have been working on script development with Steve, Connor and Ryan, and have been kicking about development ideas for the game with Roz. I think that these developments will continue over the coming months.

For now, I am trying to concentrate on my own work, helping people with their scripts and attempting to have a meeting with the head of each project per week, so as to monitor their developments and aid them in in production.

If, as I suspect may happen, my involvement in LyfX, Hello World! the installation and perhaps Jeff’s game diminish, I will seek other projects on which to stick my oar in and see if I can work on further script development. For now, however, I should probably just deal with what’s already on my plate.

Notes and Scribbles

Roz and I had a meeting last night.

We discussed things. Here is what was discussed.


  • We want to make people as paranoid as possible. One way of doing this is putting them on opposing teams without knowing who the others are.
  • The idea was to give some people the job of ‘Scientist’. They would be searching for the creature.
  • The other team would be ‘the media’. They have found out about the escaped creature and are trying to get the scoop.
  • The media are hunting the scientists, the scientists are hunting the saurus.
  • The media are also hunting the saurus, so they are playing the game as well as the scientists, but with a slightly different motive.
  • There was a third party, where we would have actors placed as ‘Government Agents’. Proper men in black style black suits and shades. They would be looking for the media.
  • Everyone would have to try and be as nonchalant as possible, hoping that no one notices them.
  • This means that everyone is trying to hide their identity, adding an extra element to the game, but also means that people aren’t sure who is who, and have to be as secretive as possible.
  • We had some ideas for some things to drop into it as aesthetics:
  • Projections
  • Puzzles
  • Hidden books
  • Its own twitter feed, so there would be direct interaction with the participants
  • Hidden cameras, so we could monitor people’s movements.
  • A way of talking to the creature, perhaps by using a remote desktop, we could speak to players directly.
  • Some sort of prize, keepsake or token. Something to take away with you.
  • The storyline is taking a turn for the darker.
  • We were thinking that perhaps there was some sort of animal testing going on?
  • Perhaps they were harvesting the saurus? Taking its words? Collecting bits from it while it is still alive.
  • Perhaps they are trying to feed it into the internet?
  • With the introduction of the ‘Government agents’, it becomes possible to add an extra layer like this.
  • Some sort of third party, actors employed by us, would be able to implement this well.
  • We want to fuck with people.
  • We want to cause panic.
  • We want to cause alarm.
  • We thought that we could trick people, making them freak out. Something like:
    “Could you just go over there and press that button for me please? I just have to do somethi- (they press the button) NO! NOT THAT BUTTON! OH GOD WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?”
  • Are the rules the same for everyone? Can we give people different advantages or disadvantages?
  • With a camera system set up, we could monitor them, and perhaps interact directly with them.
  • If they came across a CCTV section, where they could see bits of footage from other parts of the level, we could get them running all over the place.
  • We know that we need more stages. Currently we have:
  1. Introduction
  2. Simple puzzles, tricking people into a false sense of security.
  3. Then raise the stakes, introduce the ‘problem’ (the creature has escaped) and the ‘agents’ (the ‘enemy’ perhaps?)
  4. The journey: from hunter to hunted.
  5. The ‘Rug pull’: the stage leading up to the reveal.
  6. The conclusion.
    We do not know what happens at the conclusion. Perhaps we talk to the creature directly? Some sort of direct interaction?
  7. Prize: something to take with you.

We need more stages, thicken the game out a bit, but the more we talk, the more ideas we will have, the more we can fit it. It’s just about experimentation.

And  that’s what I understand so far. There’s probably a bit more to it, and we have a lot of work to do, but we’re on the right track,

Examples of Mechanics

Mechanic sketch 1

  • One single event occurs. Multiple characters are involved. You choose to follow one character, and from there choose a few different actions.

Mechanic sketch 2

  • One single event occurs, but you can see it from a number of angles, revealing different parts of the story.
  • Multiple events occur. You can scrub through them, back and forth, piecing together stories as you go. Maybe a final piece is revealed at the end
  • Story loop. The same events keep on occurring, it is up to you to make different choices in those events (like Groundhog Day).

Mechanic sketch 3

  • One event occurs. You can follow a number of characters in that event,
  • Choice tree – one choice branches into two, which branches into two, etc. (fractal)
  • Choice tree which links back into itself.

Mechanic sketch 4

  • Number of videos available. Once they are all watched, it reveals a final video, which ties them all together (Three Colours trilogy)

Notes so far

So far I have come up with a series of possible narratives or directions the multi screen idea might take. Here are the notes (they are not very tidy and simply just notes):



  • You play as the detective solving a murder case.
  • Multiple characters are the suspects.
  • Your second screen shows notes, evidence, and information about the suspect.
  • Your second screen also gives you the option to ask different questions.
  • Technically, there are only 2 endings: you either guess who did it or you don’t.
  • This is quite a basic one, so probably not too difficult (comparatively).



  • Similar to above, expect you play as the killer.
  • You are interrogated by police.
  • You second screen might show your heart rate, etc.
  • Again, only two endings really; you get away with it or you don’t.
  • Does not contain multiple characters, but the potential for a lot of miniature scenes.
  • More linear.
  • Probably the easiest one to do, as there is only one character.



  • You have to kill everyone in a situation
  • You then have to cover your tracks



  • ???



  • See one event



  • You are in a café/restaurant/somewhere
  • You are watching a couple/various couples
  • The events are spread over a week/a few weeks
  • You select what part in time you see
  • Your second screen shows you that day’s newspaper, giving you background information on what’s happening. You can take notes on the newspaper, remove clippings
  • It is up to you to save (something) with the knowledge available to you, from the conversations you see and the things you read



  • You are in a restaurant
  • You have someone to kill by poisoning them
  • Perhaps you don’t know who they are, and you have to work it out by a process of elimination?
    – You have notes like ‘They have brown hair’, ‘they are left handed’, ‘they are vegetarian’ or something
  • You need to identify and kill them before they work out who you are



  • You have to warn someone of their impending death
  • You replay one day, changing actions until you can escape that day (groundhog day)
  • You watch through a day from different angles, uncovering clues
  • You are stuck in one repeating event you have to prevent (groundhog day/quantum leap)


EXPLORATIVE (not goal orientated)

  • Interactive musical experience
    – Second screen acts as interface, like input matrix
  • Exploring a world
  • Series of scenarios with optional variables



  • Multiple characters playable
  • Perhaps you have multiple characters each with multiple choices as to how to react to one event.
    – who/ what action you choose decides the outcome
  • Multi camera experience
    – One scene, witnessed from multiple angles reveals different things
    – one scene, playable from multiple character points



  • You decide what each person says in a conversation
  • Each choice gives you a different option in the dialogue web


  • You must get from A to B, but on the way, there are variables
    – There might be a dog en route
    – Being attacked by the dog causes you to miss the bus
    – missing the bus causes you to witness an event
    knock on effect – chaos theory



  • In the graveyard, you can play through sections of different peoples lives
  • Perhaps they are all linked somehow?