“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
— The second Mrs. de Winter
from the classic thriller ‘Rebecca’ by English author Dame Daphne du Maurier
I’ve always been partial to mysteries and thrillers. I loved reading Mary Higgins Clark novels from ‘You Belong to Me’ to ‘A Stranger is Watching’. But writing a thriller that keeps your reader hooked is no mean task. So I decided to go to an expert.
I approached Linda Huber the versatile author of many thrillers and suspense novels including The Paradise Trees, The Cold Cold Sea, The Attic Room, Chosen Child, Ward Zero and Baby Dear to blog about What exactly does it Take to Write a Thriller…
Linda covered the topic in 3 Key Parts
- What is a Thriller?
- Methods to Write the Scary Stuff
- What Not To Forget
I) WHAT IS A THRILLER?
What makes a thriller thrilling? Or – getting right back to basics – what is a thriller? According to the dictionary, it’s ‘a novel, play, or film with an exciting plot, typically involving crime or espionage’. That’s a pretty broad definition – let’s look up ‘exciting’: something that ‘arouses emotions or feelings’. Which emotions??? Nothing positive, I guess, otherwise it would be a romance or a comedy. No – a thriller is a book that scares you…
II) HOW DO YOU WRITE A SCARY BOOK/THRILLER?
So how do you write a scary book? I’ve been writing novels for over fifteen years now, and all fit into the psychological thriller/suspense/domestic noir categories. I think there are two ways to scare your readers.
METHOD I: THROUGH ACTION
Maybe your bad guy is chasing your good guy through an ancient graveyard at 3 a.m. on a foggy night… Or maybe the good guy is tied up somewhere, and if he doesn’t get out, something truly awful will happen, but then, at the most suspenseful moment, the scene changes to another situation – the police officer who’s trying frantically to find the good guy is side-tracked, just when he’s about to uncover the vital clue… You get the picture.
METHOD II: MAKING YOUR CHARACTERS REAL AND IDENTIFIABLE
The other way is to use the characters themselves. Make them come alive. Give them feelings – loves, hates, hopes, desires. Give them something that makes the readers identify with them; in other words, make them real – ordinary people leading ordinary lives. And then put them in an extraordinary situation which they then have to deal with. They don’t all need to be nice people, these characters, but they do need to have something that makes the reader care about them and think, golly, that could have been me.
In my newest book Baby Dear we have Jeff and Caro. He’s madly in love with her; she desperately wants a baby – and then they discover he’s infertile. We all know Jeff’s and Caros. Then there’s Sharon, eight months pregnant and not sure she’s cut out to be a mother – another everyday situation. And Julie, a single mother who barely has two pennies to rub together. I was a Julie myself, once. These four people then slide into a terrible situation, so for the reader, it’s scary in two ways – the ‘it could have been me’ way, and the ‘action/danger’ way that occurs as the plot develops. (No spoilers here!)
III) DON’T FORGET TO ADD A DASH OF BLACK HUMOR
Another thing you need in any book, I think, is humor. Thrillers are rarely laugh-out-loud funny, but a few touches of lovely black humor when the characters talk to each other will make the book that bit more realistic because that’s how we do talk to each other in real life.
And let’s hope that real life for the rest of us isn’t as ‘thrilling’ as it becomes for Sharon, Julie and Caro in Baby Dear
Find out more about Linda And Baby Dear here:
Amazon Author Page: viewAuthor.at/LindaHuber
Baby Dear univ. link: getBook.at/BabyDear
Linda grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Not to mention several years spent as a full-time mum to two boys, a rescue dog, and a large collection of guinea pigs.
Her writing career began in the nineties, when she had over fifty short stories published in women’s magazines. Several years later, she discovered the love of her writing life – psychological suspense fiction. Her seventh novel, Death Wish, will be published by Bloodhound Books in August 2017.