More on how to write a successful thriller
Published: February 27, 2009
|In the April 2009 issue of The Writer, Gary Braver, a veteran of the thriller genre, listed the 10 basic ingredients you need to cook up the perfect story. Following is some additional material on this topic from Braver.|
Before and After: Adding a cliffhanger
My latest novel, Skin Deep, is a hybrid—a thriller wrapped around a mystery. At the end of one of the early "mystery" chapters, detective Steve Markarian returns alone to the apartment of the deceased Terry Farina, seeking more clues.
Originally I had concluded Chapter 12 like this:
Maybe the killer had brought the stockings with him and left with the packaging. So, despite the violence, he was cautious not to leave any trace of himself. Then he set up the autoerotica scene to look like an accident.
A voice reminded me of two of my own rules: Make your protagonist miserable and end a scene with a cliffhanger.
Following is the next, and concluding, paragraph that I added, which appears in the published version. What it does, of course, is put Lt. Markarian at the top of the list of suspects.
As Steve stood in the kitchen and processed that thought, he looked down at his PDA. As if on some weird autopilot, his fingers pressed the button listing recent outgoing calls. ... He scrolled down to ... Saturday the second [the day of the murder]. For a moment he stared at a number that did not look familiar. A number he had called at 5:53 p.m. Without a thought, he pressed the call button. Like a half-glimpsed premonition, from across the room Terry Farina's telephone rang.
• Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French
• On Writing by Stephen King
• Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
1. From your novel-in-progress, select two characters who have opposing views regarding the story's core issue. For example, these can be two government agents with differing approaches to some impending mayhem, or lovers who disagree over what must be done. Or they can be the protagonist and antagonist going head to head. But create a scene that you know must be in the book. And make the conflicting points of view clear by dramatizing the conflict through your characters' words, thoughts and behavior.
2. Write a scene in which the protagonist confronts his or her private demons and questions his or her worth, strength, stamina, purpose—even sanity.
Gary Braver is the author of seven critically acclaimed thrillers, including Skin Deep, Elixir, Gray Matter and Flashback, the only thriller to win a prestigious Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction, in 2006. Three have been optioned for movies. Under his real name, Gary Goshgarian, he is a professor of English at Northeastern University and author of five writing textbooks. Web: www.garybraver.com
--Posted Feb. 27, 2009