Category Archives: books

My Thoughts on the Hunger Games

I’m going to preface this by saying that I have not read the Hunger Games series, nor have I seen the movies. Everything I am going to say is what I have gathered from talk by friends and family on them, as well as Wiki, so I could see what the main plot was about.

And after reading it all, hearing what people have to say, I can honestly say I don’t plan on reading them any time soon. I think it’s great that there are books out there that get people wanting to read, I really do. They become a part of our generation, of our world and culture. Some of them are good (The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings), some of them aren’t built in worlds that could work, but connect with people at such a level that everyone knows it, even if they have never read them (Harry Potter). Others have redefined a created a new twist on an old myth (Vampires in Twilight). They all have their issues, but they all have a place.

I look at the Hunger Games the same way. It is something that, at the moment, has become a pervasive part of the world and conversation. It remains to be seen how long it will stick about, but judging from what I hear and see, I think it’s here to stay for at least as long as Twilight and Potter, if not perhaps as long as Tolkien. But at the same time, people are reading about kids killing kids when we get down to it. And not just that, but it’s kids killing kids for entertainment for the wealthy of the world in this series.

There are enough kids killing kids in real life, do we really need to sensationalize it?

My sister is 12, and she has just finished reading the series. She would tell me about what had just happened, such as reading about a child in the games around her age being mauled to death by monkeys or some such. Or wasps killing another. Or two children making a suicide pact at the end just so that there would be no winner. She is twelve. Yes, she sees worse on the news about shootings and killings, wars and earthquakes. But I always saw books as a way to escape that. And true, there are fights in Potter and Tolkien, there is death and destruction, even of kids. But the majority of them were written for the older age group. And weren’t kids killing kids.

There was an article I read a few days ago about a mom who went with her kids to a midnight showing of the film and came out in shock. Her words are perfectly to the point: “I didn’t expect to come here and see a movie about the young Israeli soldiers sent to occupy the West Bank”. Over dramatic? yes. But she raises a good point. (read the rest of  it here if you want, I highly suggest it).

I remember when September 11th happened.  We were watching in classrooms, and saw all the footage. And by the end of the day, I had grown almost numb to what I was seeing.   The fact that maybe my sister could get numb to kids her age dying…  that frightens me.  A lot.

And hey, maybe I’m over reacting.  I mean, I do play the Deus Ex games and enjoy running around with a laser sword and a flame thrower… so I contacted some friends who HAVE read it and asked their opinions.  I’m posting the questions I asked and the answers I received.

Question and Answer with a Mother (not mine)

1- As a mother, did it disturb you at all to read about kids killing kids?  If not, why?  Was it because you knew it was only a book?

it disturbed me, i think, mainly on the level of a human being. I don’t think I brought so much of “being a mom” to my reading of it.   these books totally got to me. I’m not joking when I say they broke my little heart all the way through. I sobbed like a baby through much of the end of the third book. but it wasn’t .. I don’t know, it didn’t always feel like kids.  I had to remind myself at a couple spots that Katniss was only 16 and 17 when this is taking place.

2- What do you think draws people to them (the books)?

it’s a compelling story, certainly. you really start to empathize with the characters. I couldn’t put it down… I worried about them and wondered what was going to happen until i got back to the book.  it’s this world that’s so detailed and familiar in some ways …and yet such a mystery.  so i think the storytelling has a lot to do with it.  that she unfolds this society as the story progresses.  it’s not everything over the head all at once, the layers keep coming.  and the characters are great.  katniss is sort of oblivious and flawed but sincere.  and the love triangle doesn’t hurt.

3-    finally, is there are age that you think would be best for people to read these books?  example: my sister was 11 or 12 when she started reading them.  The big sister in me goes “TOO YOUNG FOR THIS!”  Having not read them though, I’m not sure if I’m over-reacting
hmm, no, I think 11 or 12 is probably a good age.
Why is that?
The violence is probably up there. It’s shocking, and that’s what gets people talking st first. But the more you dig into the story, you realize it’s about friendship and loyalty, love and loss. It’s about the futility of war, the disparity of socio-economic classes, the inherent cruelty of humanity. It touches on a lot of issues that we face in the real world, only they’re magnified by a thousand. People just relate to a character our a situation easily. I remember I read Catching Fire in about two nights. You just get sucked in to the story.

they’re not graphic .. well, there’s a lot of fighting and killing.

but it’s told from a very innocent perspective, though not at the same time.
katniss has her eyes open; she’s just not always right about what it is she’s seeing.

i’d let my kids read it in the next couple of  years.

it was pretty emotionally taxing for me, but I am just a giant ball of emotions.
stuck together with tears.

 

The same questions to four friends around my age (update: all friends have reported in. But I’m currently working to get a hold of my sister for her opinion on the books. Rather than take words from her mouth, I figured she should have her own say. That’ll be a blog post in and of itself though, once I get a hold of her.):

 

Caleb Hall:
1. I was not disturbed, mostly because, as you say. it’s only a book. Also, it’s a well-written book, and I was too drawn in by the story to be disturbed. Mostly it was just the knowledge that what I was reading was purely fantasy. Knowing that, it didn’t bother me at all.

2. Oooh, good question. Depends on which people. For teenagers, young adults, people my age (I’m 19) I think the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale is a major draw. Shippers pour their hearts out on the internet over how much they love one couple and want them to be together forever.Also, though, the characters are very interesting, and I’m sure everyone can find one to whom they relate, even if the situation in which the characters find themselves is nothing like the readers’ lives. I know there were times while reading the books that I felt a certain kinship with Peeta and Gale. If I can see myself in a book, that makes me love it.

Third, the action. What can I say, the books are action-packed and fun to read. I wasn’t exactly on the edge of my seat through all 3, but especially in Hunger Games and Catching Fire I was very interested in seeing what happened next, how things would turn out. Action keeps people interested, keeps them reading.

3. Huh, never thought about this. The books are violent, sure, but they’ve also got a lot to teach about society. But would an eleven-year-old see that? I’m not sure. I’d say middle school age, maybe, around 13. The problem is, I love the books, and so I want everyone to read them […] It’s a difficult thing to judge.

 

Jonny Appleseed:
1- It didn’t disturb me, personally. I’m really just desensitized to that sort of thing at this point. Maybe the knowledge that it was just a book factored in. But I think that Collins understood that the impact of the story would be much greater if the Capitol was forcing the districts to send children to die, and that the results would be infinitely more shocking if the kids were doing these things to one another. It’s an idea that’s been touched on before (Lord of the Flies and Battle Royale spring to mind.) But the presence of children in these situations rather than adults makes it tougher on the reader, because you fully expect adults to do these things. The death of a character like Rue doesn’t hurt as much of she’s not a tiny 11 year old girl. The cruelty of the Career Tributes isn’t as frightening or tragic if they’re not teenagers who were raised to enter the Games and slaughter each other.
2- The violence is probably up there. It’s shocking, and that’s what gets people talking st first. But the more you dig into the story, you realize it’s about friendship and loyalty, love and loss. It’s about the futility of war, the disparity of socio-economic classes, the inherent cruelty of humanity. It touches on a lot of issues that we face in the real world, only they’re magnified by a thousand. People just relate to a character our a situation easily. I remember I read Catching Fire in about two nights. You just get sucked in to the story.
3- I don’t think age is really an accurate indicator of maturity. I probably would have been pretty okay to read this at eleven, but I was probably more mature than some fifteen or sixteen year olds. It’s honestly no worse than your average hard PG-13 or soft R movie. The fact that it’s kids doing the worst of it makes it seem a lot worse than it is.

 
Hunter “Wildback”
1- I wasn’t particularly disturbed by the concept. I think It may have somthing to do with knowing they were only books. Plus, I was aware of the setting and the importance of understanding how the actions of the characters fit into the world.

2-I rather enjoyed them. I found the story compelling and the characters interesting. I believe that the strength of the story comes from the important meanings we take away from it and the lessions we learn. In esscence, it’s a cautionary tale about overcoming the odds and the dangers of consumerism.

3- Well I think that you should be at least 13 before reading these books, while not overly graphic in its discription death is a constant companion to the characters. Someone reading the tale should be mature enough to handle that.

Joe Knight
1- It didn’t disturb me because it was just that well written and that well set up. The disturbing part was the fact that the children were put into that situation, not really the fact that they killed each other.
2- The story is compelling, a post apocalyptic world that’s rebuilt on the back of oppressed districts who must offer up tributes to compete in gladiatorial games once a year.

3- The first book, I’d say is okay for early teens. Yes, it’s got questionable subject matter in it, but not terribly so, and it’s not graphic about any of it. The second book gets darker than the first, and the third is much darker and more violent, but even still, not graphically so. The subject matter ages with the reader, so I’d probably put an 11-12 age limit to begin the series, but it’s not anything worse than they’d see on TV these days anyway.

Me again

Basically, at this point in time, I have no desired to read these books.  Maybe when the hype dies down and I can read them without having something explode when someone sees me reading them, I might give it a shot.  But right now, I think I’m better off not knowing.

 

As always, feel free to debate and comment.  I only ask that you keep it civil.  If there isn’t civil, I will  ready the Stick of Whacking to lovingly bring civil back.
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Drive By Posting

This is a really really quick drive by post while I have 5 minutes between errands and work.

If you’re like me, you read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy books.  And they sit on your shelves.  And then you go to the book store and go “crap…what one of these did I have”.  Or you’ll have a family member ask you what books you have…and you’ll stare at the two bookshelves and the floor full and go “know what?  gift cards are easier”

This is why a friend of mine started Left The Map.  Basically, it’s a way to keep track of and rate the books you have read.  There are new ones constantly being added, and with new people joining every day, you can meet people who have your same interest in books, and find some books you might have never come across before.  It’s organized by “shelves”: have read, going to read, never going to read, on my list, and so on. With a lot of books to read, it’s a great way, at least for me, to keep track of what I said I was going to read. And when people ask me what books I want, I can point them towards my “shelves” and say I either have these or…

“See that category that says ‘want to read’?”

….yes

“Pick one and give it to me.  I’ll be happy”

There’s also a really nice contest going on right now.  Click on a button, get a change to wind a Kindle or a Nook, your choice. Only thing you have to do is make an account.  Technically, you never need to do anything with it ever again if you don’t want to.  We’ve done this before on Facebook with a less likely chance to succeed.  If you wanna enter…

http://www.leftthemap.com/login/?action=register&ref=zira

okay..shameless plug off.  Off to errands now.  later today, I try to discuss the video game that ate me for a bit.


The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

After finally finishing all of my unpacking from the Great Move of 2011, I saw that some of my books had gotten lost in The Great Bookshelf In the Sky.  One of these books was one of my favorites, The Mists of Avalon.  The next day, I happened into a resale shop and saw it on the shelves. This is a book that seems to just like to travel around.

It’s a fitting statement for this book, I feel.  It encompasses the entirety of  the Arthurian Legend, but does it from the eyes of the women involved in the story.  It’s one of Bradley’s best loved books, and likely the one she is best known for.

So what makes a Best Seller?  Is it just the fact that a book comes out at just the right time, when the world is ready for a story like it?  This is certainly the case for a certain, seven book series about a boy wizard and his friends.  But Arthurian legend has always been being retold.  Perhaps it was the fact that it is the first major retelling of it (that I know of, anyway), to look at Arthur in a new light, and make the main characters supporting characters, and the characters at the edges of the myth are brought into the center?

Whatever the case, it’s a good book to learn from whether you write history, mystery, or religion, fantasy, sci-fi, or reality.  It’s a thick book, and creates life-like characters, a setting that is so real you can feel the mists around Avalon curling around your face, and emotions so powerful that by the time Arthur dies–as you know he will–you’re on the edge of your seat and wondering how it’s all going to get better.

So I’m starting something new.  Rather than hold off on book reviews while I try to finish this monstrosity, I’m going to endeavor to read at least 3-4 chapters a day, and then post my thoughts on them every so often.  It’ll be a breakdown by chapters of how things work, learning from a master of her craft.  Think of Mists as a sort of textbook.

Without further ado, here are thoughts on chapters 1-3 of Part One.

Part One starts off with an introduction of sorts.  Morgaine is speaking to us, telling us that this is her tale, from her perspective.  As the first chapter finally begins, we meet the main character for this section, Igraine, the wife of Duke Gorlois.  What I really enjoy about this first chapter is the setting that is so nicely drawn for us, without it just being a drop of information.  Igraine thinks on how the sea is eating away at the land more every year, giving us the knowledge that Cornwall is on the sea, and far enough away from her husband that she thinks of him when staring out at that ocean.  The sudden introduction of the Lady of Avalon, Vivian, and the Merlin of Britain bring home the point that this castle is not near anything that resembles civilization.

These first three chapters are paramount to establishing main characters and locations.  Some people are named, others are not.  The ones that we know are going to be important in the future though are the ones we spend the most time with.  By getting this knowledge out there as soon as she is able to, Bradley can concentrate on really forcing the tale to take on a life of its own, and to start moving forward instead of being muddied down in exposition.

One of the best used methods for drawing in the readers is the use of language. There is a very lyrical prose that is used, and when the characters speak, it’s not our normal English that is used today.  All words are very proper, even when just being thought.  This serves the purpose of forcing us to realize that this a world that is several centuries removed from our own.  A bit jarring at first to get used to, yes.  But eventually, the rhythm of reading these words takes over our minds, and when we look up next, a half hour has passed without notice.

Drawing in an audience to this degree is a hard trick to pull off, and Bradley does it masterfully.

The big theme in these three chapters so far seems to be Igraine’s thoughts on the differences between Christianity (here, the “new” religion), and the Old Ways, the followers of the Goddess and the Great Mother.  I don’t really want to expound on this too much as I don’t want to spark a religious debate in the comments.  Suffice to say, it’s well done, and it is clear that research has been done into these topics and how people would react to the changing times.

 

So there you have it, chapters 1-3 of The Mists of Avalon.  We shall see how far I get during breaks at work tomorrow, and I hope you’ll all enjoy this series.  If it is something that works out, I might start doing it with other books that I’m reading.

 

 

Cover art photo from amazon.com

 


An Almost Book review

I had these great plans that I would have the final book in the Inheritance Cycle finished today and I would write a wondrous review on it.

But then there was work.  And unpacking.

And packing to go on a trip.

And just, generally not enough time in the day to read a good book without the rest of the real world getting in the way.

I am over halfway done with it though, and I am enjoying it so far.  I have a few complaints about it, but those are mainly about how there are plot devices happening that seem to come out of no where, left field, and shoved in there because “crap…I forgot about that loose end that I needed to tie up!”

I feel that a lot of that might be resolved if I sat down and reread the other three books though.  It’s been so long since I have read Eragon that I honestly don’t remember much about it aside from “boy gets dragon, chaos ensues”.  And elves.

So I’ll totally take the blame on any failings that the book has right now until I sit my ass down and reread the others.  because otherwise that’s just not fair to the book.

I hope that Paolini writes quicker now though, so that I don’t need to worry about forgetting everything in the 10 years between book one and the last one.


DEXTER WEEK DAY FIVE: Book Review 8: Double Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

With this review, we have reached the end of Dexter week.  I hope it was as fun for you to read as it was for me to create it.  Let me know if there are any other themed weeks you would like to see in the future!

Double Dexter is the sixth book in the bestselling Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay.  While it’s publishing date is set for October eighteenth, I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy and see how it stacks up to the previous ones in the series.

It doesn’t just stack up to the others; it blows them all out of the water and then some.

The book starts out with a lyrical description of the night, a full moon in the sky and rain clouds ready to burst.  Tension is created almost immediately by the prose here, and my thoughts from last week on the disappearance of “poetry in prose” from books in more recent times have now been rethought.  Dexter, normally written in first person, is written with the word “we” instead of “I”, a word choice that shows a difference between when Dexter has on his mask and when he is free to be himself: the man and his Dark Passenger.

Even the murder that occurs right at the beginning of the book is described in this way, giving it a feel of surrealism that I don’t think could be accomplished another way.  It is only after Dexter realizes that he has been seen, that there had been a witness to his crime, that the word “we” changes to “I” once more, marking an end of his world and a return to the real one.

The majority of the book then details Dexter’s private quest to find the Witness and to kill him before his secret night life can be spilled.  This fear overrides him to the point where he is unable to see the problems at home, work, and everything in between.  With his wife drinking nearly half a bottle of wine at night, his job as a blood spatter specialist at the local Precinct during a case where policemen are being beaten to death, and searching for a bigger house, it’s amazing that he can keep it all straight.

Oh, and he’s being investigated for the murder of a co-worker.

With events coming to a head in the Keys, Dexter finds himself face to face with his Witness, a man who had decided that he was going to be the “next Dexter” and has to choose between taking a safe path and following the events through to their completion.  When his kids are taken from him by the now murderous Witness, his choice is made for him, and the book races towards its darkly devious denouement.

Overall, this book is well written and is full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing.  There are some points where Dexter seems especially dense, mainly those involving Rita and her drinking. Perhaps it’s because I am female that I was able to figure out WHY she was drinking as much as she was before Dexter was.  With him going out at night and not coming home until later, smelling like he just showered…well…I can see pretty easily where her thoughts were going.

As normal, the characters are well-written and any changes between books are explained through events that happened earlier or between novels.  The setting is clear and crisp, a place that truly exists in Dexter’s world and in ours.  Suspense and tension is drawn out enough so that we want to stay up to keep reading, but short enough that we do not get bored and the payoff is worth the time spent.

Lindsay is once again at the top of his game in Double Dexter and I enjoyed every moment of this book.  If you are a fan of Dexter, either the books or the TV show, I suggest you pick this up as soon as it comes out and read it for yourself.


DEXTER WEEK DAY FOUR: Anti-Heros

Today’s Dexter Week article is written by Miss Erika Eby, owner of HiJinks Studios and published author.  When I first met Erika, she was introduced to me as Bob, with Miss Bob being her unofficial title.  She was the president at the time of the renaissance re-enactment group at  our college.  Needless to say, it was a great start to a friendship.  Having tabletop gamed with her a few times, and seeing Rodrick in his first inception, I knew that she was the one to write this entry about the Anti-Hero.  I was very very happy when she agreed to write this article for me.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Semi-Coherent Ramblings on the Psychology and Creation of Anti-Heroes

Written by Erika Eby

There’s something innocent about wanting to believe that there are good guys and bad guys, black and white, easy to spot,  and Superman will show up and know who is who and save the day.  Kids’ shows are easy. The bad guys do something bad and the good guys rise to the occasion and take the moral high ground. Maybe someone waivers for a moment, but the whole thing is wrapped up with a pretty bow in under half an hour.

As we grow older, we realize that the world just doesn’t work that way. There are shades of grey and there are always loose ends left to tie up. Things rarely get tied up neatly, and when they do, it’s rarely in a way that we’d like.

Sometimes that means we cling to those childhood ideals of heroism even tighter. Sometimes that means we are drawn to the dark imperfections in our world and ourselves. It’s Superman or Batman; Cyclops or Wolverine. Me? I’ve always liked Batman better…and between you and me? Scott Sommers is kind of a pretentious prick.

What exactly is an anti-hero? Well, it’s hard to sum up. Early definitions all pegged the anti-hero as a villain, a “hero” that does not display heroic qualities. The reality is much more complex than that. Anti-heroes are murderers, thieves, and bastards. They blur the line between good and evil, right and wrong, or show us that the line was blurred or absent entirely before they every got there. Often times they have good intentions, but their actions are opposite of what is expected of a hero. Other times they do good things, but we see they have selfish or less than wholesome intentions at heart. Anti-heroes constantly force us to examine the difference between what is right and what is necessary.

As individuals, usually we’re drawn to anti-heroes sometime in our early teen years. As a culture, you could almost say the same thing. America’s rebellious and hormonal teen years were quite probably Vietnam. The years during and after Vietnam brought a number of gritty heroes or gritty reboots of old heroes.

There’s an ebb and flow to this mentality. When times are rough, we look to the anti-hero to do what is necessary, even if it may not be “right” by traditional standards. When times are good, we want to believe that there are still heroes out there. Batman is a perfect example. He started out as a vigilante that carried a gun and didn’t mind roughing up or killing criminals. Then in the 50’s, times were good and psychologists worried about the impact of such things on the minds of children, so the Caped Crusader’s world became more colorful and his demeanor more paternal. In the 60’s the character became more campy and lighthearted.

Sales dropped off in the late 70’s and early 80’s, in the Cold War and Post-Vietnam era. Enter Frank Miller and suddenly Batman is the Dark Knight once again. Not the hero the people want, but the hero they need.

That’s the delicious thing about anti-heroes. They speak to some primal, carnal, need inside our souls. They are a catharsis for every moment of every day when we’ve fantasized about getting even, about saying what we’re really thinking. Regardless of what it is that makes them anti-heroes, they speak to that dark passenger inside of all of us that we don’t want to admit to having.

This is the wonderful thing about Dexter, who may well go on to become one of the most iconic anti-heroes of our generation. The frills and trappings of a twisted sense of Chivalry are gone entirely. He pushes the idea of an anti-hero farther than most authors would ever dare take it. Dexter is a sociopath. He feels no remorse. He murders people and he enjoys the hell out of it. But he murders people that none of us would really miss. Murderers, child molesters, rapists… Like with Boondock Saints, he is killing people that many people talk about taking a gun to, vigilante style, anyway.

The thing that really makes an anti-hero, though, is the fact that some part of us likes them. We are drawn to them like moths to flame. Dexter is captivating and charming, and not just in the manipulatively charismatic way that sociopaths tend to be. He is equal parts repulsive and endearing.

This is what makes anti-heroes so challenging as a writer. There’s a fine line to walk between lovably wicked and just appalling. Creating an anti-hero is much harder than creating a hero, but also much more rewarding (at least in my humble opinion). Heroes are easy. They always take the high ground. You program in a set of morals and values, wind them up, and let them go. Heroes can get away with being flat and stale as cardboard. Not to say that all heroes are, plenty are not, but they at least have the choice.

A flat anti-hero is usually just a villain. In order to walk the fine grey line, anti-heroes need to be complex and well developed. They need to have justifiable reasons for their actions, well developed intentions, and something that makes them feel “real.” All important characters should be developed until they have that breath of life – you add details drop by drop until finally the cup overflows with a personality all its own—but anti-heroes need that quality in order to be likable.

Take my own pet anti-hero for example: Roderick, a vampire that was spawned from a role-playing game and is now the protagonist of one of my works in progress. To quote the owner of this blog “The man is a bastard, but we still love him.” He’s a womanizer and a drinker. He takes advantage of drunken college girls to get his hemoglobin fix. He has selfish interests and he is willing to lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate to accomplish his goals. He also has a soft spot for an abandoned fledgling he meets up with. He has a tumultuous love-hate relationship with his sire. He can be an aloof prick, but he’s also grappling with the loss of his humanity as he feels himself become more distant and cold as the years wear on. He’s been under development for years, growing and changing until he’s become more real than some of my friends.

That’s really why anti-heroes need that extra time, that last detail that makes them spring to life. We’d all like to be heroes sometimes, but the fact of the matter is: we’re not. We’re human. We’re all anti-heroes. Simple, complex, flawed, and beautiful.

About the Guest Blogger: Erika Eby is a professional freelance writer, editor, photographer, and photo editor. She has a strong writing background with over four years journalistic and academic experience. She graduated with honors from Carthage College and holds a BA in English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing.

An avid technology buff, Ms. Eby tries to stay on the cutting edge of technology. She works part time as a photo technician and electronics specialist. Her hobbies include writing, drawing, photography, fitness, new age, and a wide variety of board, table top, computer, and console games.  She has also recently started the company HiJinks, a freelance company for writing, editing, photography, and everything in between.

A jack-of-all-trades, her works can be found around the internet on Associate Content and Hubpages. She is also the author of an upcoming book titled “Writing Great College Research Papers: 101 Tips and Tricks to Make Your Work Stand Out” from Atlantic Publishing.  

 


DEXTER WEEK DAY THREE: Suspense and Tips For Writing It

Building suspense and tension in a novel, short story, or even a 100 character piece of fiction is difficult, aggravating, and also fulfilling if done correctly.  While not all types of books need this tension within them, I can assure you that tension will rear its head at some point in your character interactions.  While Agatha Christie remains Queen of Suspense and Tension–she did invent the “killer in the room” idea after all–there are authors out there today who have mastered it as well.

Here are some tips on creating and keeping suspense alive in your writings.

ONE: Draw out the scene.  I don’t mean get out your pen and paper here.  rather, lengthen the time spent on this one scene.  If you are telling the story from first person, have your main character begin to notice the other person doing little things.  “I saw him brush his hair out of his eyes with his hands before staring out the window.  His eyes were closed, but his breathing was harsh, rough.  it was clear that something was wrong, but for the life of me, I wasn’t sure what it was.”  Paint a picture of what is going on, exactly, and tension will build, especially if the Main Character has no idea what is going on either.

TWO: Direct from Dexter, have a character keep a secret about his life that no one can no.  And now, have an event happen that gives the chance for this secret to come out.  The character needs to deal with this while still acting normal and nothing is wrong.  For best results: think on how you would act in the situation and write that into your tale.

THREE: If you’re writing Fantasy or sci-fi (or any, I guess, but especially these two), throw in a fight that is breaking out right now.  Characters need to fight for their lives, and by using Tip One as well in this situation, any reader is going to be on the edge of their seat, trying to read faster to know who survives.

So, those are my three tips.  What ones do you have?