Whether it’s because of suspense and build-up or the twists and turns that keep you turning page after page, thrillers are among the most lauded and exciting genres. However, this also makes them notoriously difficult to write. Authors must create apprehension and anxiety while managing pace, plotting twists, and creating high stakes. While none of this is easy, it’s certainly possible. Use the following tips and tricks to write an exhilarating thriller that keeps readers on the edge of their seats.
1. Create Compelling Characters
Like any novel, a thriller needs compelling characters. Both the protagonist and the antagonist must be three-dimensional and complex characters. A strong protagonist is relatable, and strong antagonists have conviction and clear motivations for their actions. It’s the opposition and the tension between these characters that will keep your story moving. In addition to your characters being fully fleshed out, they must have clear motivations and goals that drive the plot and create a gripping thriller.
Additionally, it’s by making your characters compelling that you engage readers. Thrillers are page-turning, and readers will be more invested and engaged when confronted with compelling characters they can root for or against.
2. Focus on the Opening Scene and Climax
An essential part of writing a good thriller is focusing on the scenes that matter most. The opening scene and climax are two of the most important scenes in your thriller novel. It’s essential to devote time to these scenes and ensure they’re captivating and full of action. For a thriller to grab a reader’s attention, it must be exciting from the get-go. Thus, writers must start with action and ensure the opening scene is exciting and sets the story in motion.
For example, in The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, a museum curator is pursued by an albino man and murdered in the prologue. However, Brown establishes that the curator gives the murderer a false lead and dies trying to pass on a powerful secret.
The other major pivotal scene in a thriller is the climax. Writers should spend time perfecting the climax so it stands out. While you can write many genres without knowing the ending beforehand, this isn’t the case for thriller novels. Knowing how the story ends is vital since the entire book is building up to that moment.
3. Include Plot Twists
No thriller is complete without plot twists. Since the point of thrillers is to keep readers engaged and turning the pages, twists and turns are a must-have. Unexpected events keep readers’ interest piqued and propel the story forward. Additionally, plot twists ensure that readers don’t know what’s coming and are constantly surprised and delighted at the turn of events.
4. Pacing Is Essential
A thriller is fast paced by definition. Pacing is an essential component that must be kept in mind at all times. One way to ensure a fast pace is by avoiding unnecessary details and exposition. If a scene or plot development slows the story down, go back and rewrite it to make it more exciting. Every development throughout the thriller must keep the plot moving.
In thrillers, slowing down the pace and the action often means losing readers. Therefore, if you have a section that bogs down the pacing, either cut it down or refine it. Avoid dreams, memories, and flashbacks since these tend to slow down the narrative. Instead, use action-packed scenes and keep the story moving forward to keep your readers on their toes. That being said, you may include flashbacks in the last third of your thriller. This exception is usually used when a flashback impacts current events and informs what’s happening in the denouement.
5. Think About the Stakes and Obstacles
When it comes to thrillers, high stakes are a given. These stakes must be established and must be high. If there’s no palpable tension, your thriller isn’t a very good one. Pitfalls, narrow escapes, and dire consequences are musts for a high-stakes thriller. In addition to keeping your story moving, they instill a sense of danger and suspense.
Obstacles are also characteristic of thrillers. Your protagonist must be put into dire situations to heighten the stakes. Push your characters to their core and make it impossible for the reader to figure out whether or not the protagonist will make it through the obstacles in his or her path. High stakes and plenty of obstacles make the ending more satisfying. For example, in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, the protagonist, Nick, faces one obstacle after another. He is being framed for his wife’s murder, and circumstances come together to make the situation worse until he is backed into a corner.
Thrillers must maintain a careful balance of tension, suspense, and conflict. Writers must do this while also focusing on characterization, action, and more. For your thriller novel to achieve all of this and keep readers laser-focused throughout, it must be written well and thoroughly edited to ensure it is error-free. Invest in Edit911’s affordable book editing services to make your thriller the best it can be. Contact us here for more information.