UK CULTURE
27/11/2012 05:58 GMT | Updated 27/01/2013 05:12 GMT

How To Write Thrillers: Ten Tips

In the second of our four part 'Teach Yourself To Write' series, Matthew Branton, an author and writing coach, explains how to write thrillers like the best of them...

matthew branton pic

Matthew Branton

TIP 1 - Learn From The Masters

Any reputed writer's work will show literary techniques and perspectives in action - I think early Stephen King is as interesting as early Salman Rushdie, for example, novelists working at the same time but in completely different markets.

2 - Choose Your Narrator

Think creatively about the choices you have, even if you can hear a clear voice from the start.

3 - Think In Terms Of Dramatic Acts

Even if you only have a few bits of scenes, locating them in a dramatic structure will help you see what your action needs.

4- Show Don't Tell

In action as in prose: readers want story, not a narrative report.

5 - Go To The End Of The Line

Understanding 'core-value progressions' - that is the coherence of the choices authors make in progressing story and character - will help you push your thriller all the way.

6 - Keep It Simple

One 'theme', one 'issue', one 'controlling idea' alone. A betrayal story which tries to incorporate a sub-plot about injustice spreads itself too thinly.

7 - Don't Hang About

Get in late to scenes, get out as early as you can: pace is critical in thrillers.

8 - Plan Ahead

Twists come from solid planning - from creating options to explore - not from lightning-bolt inspiration.

9 - Work On The Dialogue

If your dialogue sounds like dialogue, read some Elmore Leonard classics.

10 - Think About The Fight

Thrillers are at heart about a cornered warrior and a hellfire dragon. The question is not will the hero win - this is an actual dragon - but how valiant the fight.

Write a Bestselling Thriller is out on 30 November on Hodder & Stoughton, out 30 November. Join the conversation at: @TYCWriting.

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