Before I give you tips, let’s discuss what a thriller writer is. According to International Thriller Writers, this fiction genre is characterized by:
…the sudden rush of emotions, the excitement, sense of suspense, apprehension, and exhilaration that drive the narrative, sometimes subtly with peaks and lulls, sometimes at a constant, breakneck pace.
Thrillers must include:
- a plot that is high-concept
- a hero who is clever, superhuman and flawed
- a goal that involves saving the nation/the planet, never something like ‘find myself’
- a climax that is shocking
- world-class nasty villains
- stakes that are high, action that is non-stop, and plot twists that are smart, often, and unexpected
If this is your genre, here are some tips for excelling at it:
- Your ‘high fives’ should be followed with a chair in the face
- Better yet: Set up the High Five and have the hero trip the antagonist instead
- Characters should be like sharks–always moving.
- Like the SEAL slogan (you know the one), the hero’s easier day should always ALWAYS be yesterday
- To the antagonist, understanding patriotism, morals, responsibility is akin to smelling the color yellow
- The antagonist can imitate someone being reasonable, but never deliver. That trait is buried deeper in his soul than Machiavelli’s conscience
- Thrillers have none of what Oprah calls ‘life defining moments’ unless they involve a gun or knife, or maybe a fist fight
- Action is tighter than a knife fight in a phone booth
- By the climax, the hero’s chances of survival should include slim, none, and you’re kidding
- Bowing to the inevitable is not a position that comes naturally to your hero
If you’re looking for a book on writing thrillers, try James Frey’s How to Write a D*** Good Thriller (click for my review of it).
This is my genre, so I like writing about it in WordDreams. Here are a few more articles I’ve written about this genre.
5 Great Websites for Thriller Writers
Writers Tips #81: 11 Tips on Writing Thrillers
10 Basic Ingredients (Plus 8 More) of a Successful Thriller
Thriller Writers: These Books Are For You
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, and a bi-monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.