In Brian Klems’ Writer’s Digest Column on Writing, I read a great article titled, “The 5 C’s of Writing a Great Thriller Novel.”
While I’m not a thriller writer, the information in this article is applicable to just about all fiction writing.
There are fundamental elements needed in all fiction to make it reader engaging and friendly. In other words, to make it ‘page turning good.’
The five C’s of writing a great thriller the article mentioned are:
1. Make Your Characters Three- Dimensional
The characters in your story need to be carefully chosen and they need to be three-dimensional. Your hero can’t be ALL good and your antagonist can’t be ALL bad.
Klem’s explains to create “complex characterization” and to “brainstorm a list of at least 10 inner demons your hero has to fight.”
2. The Name of the ‘Fiction Writing’ Game is Conflict
Every story needs conflict. Klems calls it ‘confrontation.’ The hero needs to overcome obstacles to finally reach his goals.
Having the antagonist battling his own demons or righting some wrong that makes him act unethical or even murderous is additional conflict you can season your story with.
You need to create ups and downs and interesting multi-faceted characters.
3. Twists and Turns
‘Careening,’ as Klems puts it, is about creating twists and turns that keep the story from being predictable.
This element of the story keeps the reader on her toes. Klems says, “Part of the fun for readers is thinking a story is going one way, and getting taken completely by surprise.”
4. Make Your Reader Feel
This story element is essential for all fiction, but especially in a thriller. You want your reader to feel what the character is feeling and you want it to read authentic, believable.
You need the reader to be scared or hold their breath with anticipation.
To do this, Klems suggests “recalling an emotional moment in your life, and recreate each of the senses in your memory (sight, smell, touch, sound, etc.) until you begin to feel the emotion again.” He calls this story element, ‘coronary.’
Once you start remembering, you will begin to feel what you did at the time. Then write it down. Write what you felt.
5. The Take-Away (intended or not)
Most writers want their stories to have some take-away value. It could be some kind of moral enlightenment, food for thought, or other tidbit.
The same holds true for thriller writers.
Klems explains that “you ought to spend some time asking yourself what your thriller is really about. Does it offer hope for justice? Does it end with justice denied?”
Another very interesting point Klems brings out is that some writers, especially “aspiring thriller writers,” don’t see the value in thinking about a take-away value for the story. “There’s nothing wrong with this approach, as long as you realize that you will be saying something. Why not be intentional about it?”
This is such a great point. Don’t assume the reader will be content with ending their reading with the thrill and action. Inevitably, they will take something else from the story, possibly something you didn’t intend. At least lead them in the right direction.
There you have it, five tips on writing a great thriller and on writing other fiction that will have the reader turning the pages and coming back for more.
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