Is your next or current novel a thriller? Do you know the pitfalls and critical elements that go into a thriller novel? In a thriller, everything is amped up. Everything is fighting against a ticking clock, and the reader must feel the tension on every page. Your characters need to be bigger than life and have a singular purpose—to stop the evil that is about to hit the world. Below are some articles I found on thriller novels that are very helpful and precise in their tips to writing a thriller.
There is also a video on writing a thriller story with some how-to hints on this very successful genre. I’ve also listed a book that I have found extremely useful when it comes to writing a thriller. It is chocked full of information and insider tricks to help you on your journey. I hope you enjoy and use what you learn to sell more books😉
People often confuse the mystery and thriller genres. While it’s true that they often overlap, there’s a distinct difference: A mystery follows an intellectual protagonist who puts together clues to solve a crime after it’s been committed, and a thriller details the prevention of a crime before it has been committed.
At the 2008 Maui Writers Conference, bestselling thriller writer Gary Braver (Skin Deep) said that dread drives thrillers. You know who the good guys and bad guys are. Dull moments will lose an audience, and writers can’t afford to lose an audience, even for one page.
To captivate an audience (and agents and publishers), Braver offers these 10 essential ingredients for a successful thriller.
Don’t sacrifice style—use metaphors and good language—but stick with action.
Think Cinderella: Her main quest is to get to the ball. It’s about liberation. When she gets to the ball she finds freedom.
How to write a thriller – what’s a thriller
Signs that you’re reading a thriller:
Yes, thrillers are written to give readers a thrilling ride. Unlike other genres or types of fiction that get their names because of what they’re about (romances are about romance, Westerns are about the West, etc.), thrillers get their name because of how they make the reader feel. And everything in a thriller is designed to create this feeling of heart-pounding, white-knuckle suspense.
So what are thrillers about? There are a lot of subcategories – spy thrillers, political thrillers, psychological thrillers. Many, but not all thrillers are about violent crime, but they are different from mysteries because of the angle they take. A mystery is about solving a crime that has already happened. The killer’s identity is hidden until the end because otherwise, there would be no mystery — right? A thriller is about a crime (or another type of disaster) that is about to happen … unless the hero can stop it. The reader often knows who the villain is from the very beginning — even watches over the villain’s shoulder as evil is being committed.
How to write a thriller – thrilling characters
Unlike other types of fiction, thrillers often divide characters clearly along lines of good and evil. There is a hero(ine) or a team of hero(ine)s, and there is a villain or a team of them.
But this doesn’t excuse you, the writer, from doing your character development homework. The more real you can make both the hero and the villain to readers, the more interesting your book will be. Read more about character development here.
How to write a thriller – thrilling plots
When it comes to thrillers, take everything you’ve learned about plot development, and multiply it by ten (if you haven’t studied plot development, you can do it here). Turn up the heat! Add time pressure if that works with your storyline, to make things even more tense. Keep raising the stakes. Pile on the trouble until your poor hero looks like a goner.
But make sure your hero has enough strengths that there can be a real fight. Otherwise, the story will seem to be over before it’s begun. And if you decide to have a happy ending, it’s more satisfying if this comes from the hero’s actions and strengths, not as a gift dropped out of the sky.
One way of building excitement is to keep shifting the advantage from one side to another. First, it looks like the hero’s a goner, but then there is a ray of hope. But the ray of hope turns out to be an illusion. The enemy grows. But then the hero gets an ally…
Plan your thriller so that the story gets more and more exciting until it reaches a peak, which is called the story climax. The climax should happen right before the end of the book. While in a mystery, the climax is when the hero discovers the killer’s identity, in a thriller, the climax is when the hero stops the enemy (or is conquered by the enemy if you are not after a happy ending).
How to write a thriller – ideas for thrillers:
How to write a thriller – tricks of the trade:
If your thriller is about a terrible disease that is taking over the Earth, introduce the reader to Jenny Jones, engaged to be married and daydreaming about her honeymoon… when green bile starts to spurt out of her nose and ears; poor Jenny writhes in agony, then collapses dead over her stack of wedding invitations. That makes the disease real for the reader.
Sure, everyone knows that nuclear holocaust and alien attack are bad things. But they are just ideas until you bring the reader into the lives of the characters who will be affected.
How to write a thriller – next steps
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