5 Reasons Why Suburban Life is Irresistible to a Suspense Writer

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

Most writers dream of penning their novels at a wooden desk in a sun-filled room with a view of the sea. That’s not where I long to be. I’m happy to be stuck in my damp shed in suburbia. This is the best place ever to find cracking storylines for my psychological suspense novels. 

Here are my top five reasons why…

Disappearing men!

I don’t mean I’m bumping them off – although obviously it’s nice plot-work when you can get it. What I mean is, in modern 2023 suburbia there’s a mass exodus of men onto the commuter train every Monday morning. Fourth wave of feminism? What’s that? Mosey on down to a suburban high-street near you on any given weekday and note it’s a man-free zone.

Granted, there’ll be the rare ‘male’ at a laptop or the glimpse of one squeezed into Lycra, but otherwise, there’ll be lots of lovely suburban women like me. As a writer, I feed off them. We’re getting together and we’re talking. Really talking. We’re putting the world to rights. We’re psychologically profiling, therapizing and pulling each other back from the brink of insanity. And we’re doing all this while we work from home, feed the dog, pretend to do the housework and shape the next generation into decent citizens.

We’re an all-female community of over-sharers. We’re connecting emotionally. We’re honing our empathy skills left, right and centre. We’re qualified to write PhDs on the human condition…. Or maybe just a little psychological suspense novel or two? This genre demands a strong emotional connection with the reader. It’s essential they relate to or sympathise with the main protagonist’s plight. Without that, there’s no suspense and no readers.

The playground assassin.

Okay, so we’ve established that there are no men about. This extends to the school gates, where us women swarm together again to pick up our kids. Sadly, it brings out the worst in us. We don’t want to be there. We’re sleep-deprived, harassed and resentful. But we want the best for our kids, so we go through the motions. And it’s high stakes. There’s a hierarchy, there are factions, there’s competition and there’s bitching. All of it hiding behind a lovely wave and a smile and an invite to the PTA fundraiser. We are not wearing our heart on our sleeves. We’re hiding that shit. We’re superhumanly two-faced. We’re complex. And we make brilliant antagonists or unreliable narrators! Is that woman a murdering, cheating bitch who just drowned her husband in the swimming pool? Or is she a sweet kind mum who bakes cookies and remembers to donate to the foodbank every Tuesday? The thing is, she’s both. And she’s the one who’s the most interesting to chat to for five minutes while we wait for our kids. She’s the best fodder for a good suspense yarn. So, head to your local primary school for some fantastic characterisation inspo.

Secrets behind clipped hedges.

While we’re disputing the height of our neighbours’ Leylandii or blocking planning application for their dormer windows, we’re sleeping with each other’s husbands or being beaten by our own. Our beautifully maintained front-drives and shiny new doors are the ideal front for hiding shocking secrets. Who’d have thought that Pete next door – such a lovely man! – would’ve taken an axe to his poor wife’s head? Only last week I was talking to him about his hydrangeas! A secret is an essential ingredient in psychological suspense fiction to up the tension. The perfectly ordinary suburban house is the best secret-keeper ever, and they don’t give them up easily. Nor should a good psychological suspense. 

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books