Hitchcock and the Craft of Writing

I find it interesting that a recent reviewer of my short story "A Certain Kind of Freedom" (an excerpt from the novel of the same name that I have yet to publish) suggested that I employed a technique favored by Alfred Hitchcock.  

Malcolm R. Campbell said:

"The title story about two young people who go kayaking in a cove that may or may not be dangerous or cursed, superbly introduces feelings of dread and a finely wrought narrative tension that characterizes most of the stories in Short Fiction. Susan Rogers' "A Certain Kind of Freedom" employs a technique favored by director Alfred Hitchcock: placing everyday people into an unusual and chilling situation.

Kate and Ryan, who are visiting the Mediterranean coast, are experienced kayakers. The day is beautiful and the seas are calm. Yet Kate is preoccupied with "pink sky in the morning, sailor's forewarning," World War II dogfights that occurred in the area, and the unknowns of deep water once they paddle outside the sheltering cove. Rogers builds the tension well, foreshadowing a harrowing conclusion that, while not unexpected, is both surprising and sad."

The thing is, I didn't intentionally employ a technique, per se. I didn't sit down and say "I think I will place everyday people into an unusual and chilling situation." Instead, I feel like I simply wrote a story about two people experiencing, together, someone's end of life experience.  I believe in learning your craft, always working on your craft, and bettering yourself as a writer in any way you can. But I also believe that a great part of what we do, as writers, is break our stories down to the lowest common denominator which is, simply, the story.  Then, as we once used building blocks as a child, we build upon that story and engage others by constructing better sentences, expanding our vocabularies, adding layers of texture, comedy, suspense, character, etc.

I write because I love to write. I tell stories that are meaningful to me, in ways that I hope are engaging to readers. I make films because they are simply stories told in a visual medium.

Films can have a visceral impact on viewers in a way that might appeal more to some than the art of the written word. Use of music, for instance, adds that extra little layer of drama in a filmed story. Music can manipulate viewers, so I try to be honest with myself first and foremost, in the belief that if I create my story with integrity, then I am presenting an honest viewpoint that others can pick up on and interpret as they wish.

This goes for my short story too. "A Certain Kind of Freedom" may please reviewers for its steadily increasing tension and employ of an Alfred Hitchcock technique. But I have to be honest - I didn't plan it that way. I just wrote a story that meant something to me, using the best tools I have in my writer's toolbox at this juncture in my career as a writer. I will continue to work on my craft with the goal of becoming a better writer. And if that means I am employing techniques that make reviewers happy, then that's awesome. Half of the credit will go to what I am learning as I tread this fascinating and satisfying path, and the other half will go to the story itself.

I hope that, for me, writing will always be this way. I don't ever want to get too bogged down in just 'the craft.' Storytelling needs to be fun - structured, to a point, and disciplined, yes - but ultimately fun.

Happy writing :)