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.
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, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. The sequel to To Hunt a Sub, Twenty-four Days, will be out this summer. Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.