What kills vampires? A stake. When you get something wrong? Mistake. What’s at risk in your story? The stakes. Let’s talk about tension, uncertainty, balloons, and deceit.
I prefer books with real stakes that persist from volume to volume, lasting change that affects the world of the story. But a lot of series fiction operates on what I’m calling the Board Game Model.
Outlines and preplanning are useful tools for writing coherent, tight stories. But they’re tools, and you can—and should—allow your story to move where it’s organically headed.
Lauren Beukes’ take on the slasher genre isn’t lurid, puritanical, or exploitative. Its sympathies lie with the victims, and it marshals considerable anger to great effect.
The tools you use to write are not important. If you make rituals, you will be bound to rituals, and that’s a bad thing.