Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sarah Davies: How to Write a Great Thriller (and any really exciting story!)

What are the ingredients for a great thriller?

1) A fabulous premise - must have a great hook to leave reader "slack-jawed with interest."

 Put your character into some intrinsically frightening situation.  This can be pointed out by a strong sense of place, however it is not enough to carry an entire story.

Start with impossible conundrum.  What might have credibly have happened to have you arrive at that part?  

Credibility in this kind of story is vital, especially where you have to dream big.  Everything unfolding from initial premise has to be logical.  

"The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense." - Tom Clancy

2) An exceptional protagonist

Character is how you draw in your reader.  Don't skip on characterization because your story is plot-heavy.  See your protagonist on some kind of mission.

"I try to create sympathy for my characters and then I turn the monsters loose."  - Stephen King

Make your idea fresh.   In fiction unmitigated happiness and virtue are just not interesting.  Give your protagonist a past.

3) A high-stakes plot

Your goal is to take your highly motivated set of complex characters and pit them together in a high-stakes contest.  To write a great thriller multiply by ten everything you ever knew about plotting.  You have to create a complex and zig-zaggy story.

Create peaks and troughs in your story.  Treat it like a roller coaster - let the reader feel the tension.
Build in major surprises.Throw your reader off the scent.  Keep the reader guessing as long as possible.  Throw in red herrings and cast suspicions.  Consider building in cliffhangers.  Aim for a good suspenseful chapter end.
Plan an amazing climax.
4) Tight and Pacey writing

For more, attend a conference! 

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