Ben Rosenthal, Senior Editor, at Katherine Tegen Books gave some fantastic tips about how to write Mysteries and Thrillers, and I want to share them with you because it shouldn't be a thrilling mystery to learn helpful tips to make your writing stronger. Here goes:
1. Killer First Lines and First Pages
HOOK them from the first line. Reader will have no other option but to keep reading.
CREATE intrigue factors: What happens next?
ENGAGE the readers: Keep them reading
2. Heroes and Villains (Ha! HaHa…!!! Sinister laughter necessary)
CREATE hero by creating tiers of empathy.
Your job is to convince reader to KEEP READING!!
DEVELOP a hero with admirable and attractive qualities AND flaws too in order to ground them in reality.
CREATE an equal match to your Protagonist.
*Nothing creates more tension than the reader feeling the villain might win.
Villain always one step ahead of hero.
3. Establish Conflict and Raise Stakes
Introduce conflicts. THEN build stakes. AND THEN, always, always, increase the stakes.
BEST TIP: Stakes can NEVER be too high.
If you ground your thriller in reality, than anything goes. Your reader will follow you anywhere.
4. Edge-of-Your-Seat Tension and Pacing
- Ideally, every page of MS should have tension.
- Be cautious with 1st person. Watch to make sure there’s not TOO much narrative summary.
- CUT the boring parts. Readers want to escape everyday life. (Showers, meals, getting dressed…)
- Frequent paragraphing allows the eye to naturally move down the page faster—creates the allusion of quicker pacing
5. Suspense and Plot Twists
- SUSPENSE is about delay, create the SENSE that climax is coming but reader can’t skip ahead or they WILL miss something.
- PLOT TWISTS: An okay plot twist surprises reader. A GREAT plot twist pulls the rug out on the character.
- Character Motivation Twist: A character works with main character for much of the book or at least part of the journey, only for us (and MC) to find out character was working against MC the WHOLE time. **I don’t know about y’all, but that makes me crazy to no end.
6. DIALOGUE: needs to match characters.
- Dialogue tells the truth.
- Turn the volume up on your dialogue.
7. Confusion is not mystery.
Difficult, complicated puzzles don’t necessarily translate to a more satisfying and entertaining journey for readers.
HELPFUL RESOURCES ON CRAFTING FICTION:
The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Mass
Now go THRILL your readers!!