Writing a Thriller
Writing any book is a grueling job but writing a thriller is a different ball game altogether. It requires an immense lot of planning, plotting and strategizing to write a thriller.
So, what exactly is a thriller?
Lexicon defines it as a novel, play, or film with an exciting plot, typically involving crime or espionage.
That’s easy. Now comes the tough part. How does one write a thriller? While there are no strict guidelines, here are a few pointers that go into writing a thriller.
The Basic Elements
Characters - The first thing you need is an interesting protagonist. He should read like a real person, not a cardboard cutout of an imaginary character. His personality and psyche should be a blend of good and bad. Real people are not saints nor are they Satans. The readers should be able to identify at least some of the traits in order to connect and have an emotional investment in the protagonist’s outcome. Think of the flaws and virtues, inner conflicts and issues that can go into the making of your protagonist.
Now that you have a credible protagonist, start listing the other characters that have to be placed in the story. Make them believable by jotting down the traits of each of them. Just like the protagonist can’t be a saint, the villain can’t be a satan. The stereotype only works in Bollywood offerings.
Provide interesting physical and emotional descriptions to the characters. For this, you may have to go beyond the height, weight and facial description. This is your chance to give wings to your imagination and create distinctive features to set them apart.
Once you have outlined the characters, give interesting backstory to the main players. A backstory is crucial for the development of any character, more so the protagonist.
Plot – You have to have a plot to write any novel, and so with a thriller. The only difference being that a thriller requires a fast paced plot with many twists and turns. The more the better. Create a plot that will evoke curiosity in the reader but avoid clichés. Clichés can kill a story faster than anything else. It is likely that the plot will undergo changes as writing progresses. You may stumble upon an interesting variation in the original plot or the characters may lead you on a different path. It happens. Use a plot outline as a guide to structure your story but treat it as an open ended blueprint rather than an inflexible form.
Once you have a plot, think up some subplots to create interesting parallel stories.
Setting - It is important to have a perfect setting for the story. Much of the action and interaction will depend on the kind of location you decide. Is it a small town or a large metropolis, a densely populated place or a thinly populated one? Whatever be the setting, it should catch the readers' imagination. It is important that you are familiar with the details of your setting otherwise the slips will show.
The Next Step
Now that you have the basic in place, it is time to get to the next step, which is about the beginning, middle and end of your thriller. What you have been doing till now was to create a broad structure for the work. But now you start with serious writing. As the name suggests, the book has to be a page turner and that can happen only when you provide an edge of the seat experience for the readers.
The beginning is where you introduce your characters, their characteristics, goals and fears. This is where you start with your plot and weave in the subplot in a gradual manner.
Middle of the thriller is where you introduce conflict. This is where you promise to provide an exciting journey to the readers. Conflict is what defines the suspense and excitement in the story. This is where you introduce intrigue and cliffhangers that will hold the reader on edge. It is important the reader is not able to figure out the resolution. Keep them guessing, that’s the trick. For that, the story has to keep running at a fast pace without slackening for a moment.
Minimise description and don’t dole out too much information because that will slacken the pace. Stick to action-oriented writing. Take care to dole out information in tiny bits to hold the interest of readers without giving away too much. This is where you scatter red herrings to keep them baffled.
The end - It’s the last part of the book. The end or resolution is the part of the novel where the key issue is resolved. This is where the dénouement or climax happens. In simple words, this is where writers tie up the loose ends. Here’s where the protagonist vanquishes the villain, lovers declare their love for each other and the sleuth catches the murderer. In short, all conflicts are resolved.
It is important to tie up all loose ends. Hanging and unaccounted for threads can annoy the readers. Also, readers prefer a proper closure rather than an unresolved crime. The maxim that good always wins still holds true for most of us. There is comfort in the belief that the world has more good than evil.
Now that you have the elements in place, it is time to get going. Go ahead and spin your story.
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