HOW TO WRITE A BESTSELLING THRILLER NOVEL?
The thriller novel is one of the most exciting and dynamic genres available to novelists. They are characterized by fast pacing, frequent action, and resourceful heroes who must thwart the plans of more-powerful and better-equipped villains. Literary devices such as suspense, red herrings, and cliffhangers are used extensively. Everything in a thriller is designed to create this feeling of heart-pounding, white-knuckle suspense.
What Makes a Good Thriller Novel?
There are elements to bestselling thrillers that can help your readers stay on the edges of their seats.
A Clear Threat
Any successful thriller has a clear and imposing threat. The form of that threat can determine which of the many thriller sub-genres your story falls in.
There are many different techniques to raise the stakes in your thriller. Piling one problem on top of the other and putting your characters in seemingly unsolvable predicaments is one way to raise the stakes. Additionally, placing a time limit on when your character must solve the problem they are facing works well.
Most good thrillers have a storyline that is full of cliffhangers and plot twists. Subverting your audience’s expectations and throwing unpredictable roadblocks in your protagonist’s path will produce a great page-turning thriller.
Dynamic and Complex characters
As a writer, it’s your job to fully flesh out a character and brainstorm their backstory and point of view. The thriller hero needs to struggle with issues inside as well as outside. He’s got to be a carrier of flaws as well as virtues. Give each character a point of potential conflict with your hero as well as with the other characters—especially those who are allies.
A clear and detailed location is an essential part of writing a good thriller. Your readers should feel as if your characters are inhabiting a rich and detailed world; they should be able to picture the physical environment in which your action unfolds.
The action doesn’t necessarily have to mean violence or pyrotechnics. The important thing is to keep your storyline moving and include dynamic action as you start writing the first page up until the end.
This is where the hero and antagonist battle over the high stakes a thriller demands.
The first thrillers carried a message and helped bring a local community together. Readers still seek that kind of story.
Multiple Points of View Can Give You a Great Range in a Thriller
They allow you inside the heads of many characters, which can build more dramatic tension and irony.
Make Your Characters Miserable
Give them grief, false hope, heartaches, anxiety, and near-death experiences. We don’t want our protagonist to win until the end.
Your Main Characters Have to Change
It has to be an emotional change that shows growth and victory over some of his baggage.
Pacing Must be High
Each scene should reveal something new, no matter how slight it is. Short paragraphs and white space are good. Consider using cliffhangers at the end of every chapter, albeit a sudden surprise or provocative announcement.
Avoid the passive voice. Use action verbs. Avoid adverbs—they are cheesy and cheap ways of telling instead of showing. Don’t start sentences with –ing words. Make the subject and verb close and upfront in the sentence.
How Do You Structure a Thriller?
There’s no fool-proof way of writing a successful thriller but there are ways to ensure that your novel ticks all the right boxes.
1. Flesh Out Your Characters and their Motivations
Characters in thrillers are usually complex. The good guy might not be the model citizen, and the bad guy may have a justification and conviction for everything they do — at least in their mind. The rivalries between these opposing forces are what will give rise to the action that will propel your story forward.
2. Start with Action
The opening scene is a pivotal moment in any book. In thrillers, it’s especially important because you need to start with action from the get-go. Oftentimes starting in media res is a good way to accomplish this. You need to start with something exciting that sets the protagonist in motion.
3. Show What’s at Stake
High stakes are characteristic of thrillers, but the particulars change depending on the subgenre.
4. Bring on The Twists
As we have established, thrillers are mainly propelled by plot events, and the best way to keep readers engaged in the plot is by introducing twists and unexpected events.
5. Build Up to The Climax
The climax is a pivotal scene in your book, so make sure you dedicate time to polishing it. In particular, it may be helpful to write the climax first so that you already know where your characters need to end up.
6. Give Your Story a Satisfying Ending
A satisfying ending isn’t necessarily a “happily ever after.” Keep in mind the kind of story you’ve been telling so far and make sure the ending fits well. It’s always necessary to wrap up the current action so that there’s a sense of satisfaction at the end of the book.
To write your unstoppable thriller, don’t forget to create that action-driven tension, conflict, and suspense. Turn everything upside down — for the protagonist and the reader — with every turn and twist.
What are the Elements of Suspense?
1. Strong Characters
Your story needs a likable main character, a compelling villain, and a supporting cast. Each one has a role to play in either the conflict or its resolution (or both).
2. Conflict or Dilemma
No one wants to read about characters who want something and end up getting it because nothing stands in their way. It only gets interesting when they have to overcome some challenge to get to or accomplish the thing they want.
To maintain a brisk enough pace to hold your reader’s attention, keep the story moving with short-term suspense and sentences that reveal necessary information without drowning it in nonessential details.
4. Red Herrings and Rabbit Holes
Also essential to building suspense is knowing how much information to withhold from the reader — and how you can use red herrings to trick them into focusing on the wrong suspect. Both withholding and bread-crumbing information can lead your reader down a rabbit hole and keep them guessing about the central mystery or the looming threat.
The setting is one of your most important characters. And sticking to essential details is as essential to your story’s intrigue as it is to its pace. Think of those details as atmospheric dialogue. Give your reader the details that mean something and add to the story.
Foreshadowing is hinting at what’s to come, whether you use atmospheric details, interesting turns of phrase, or events that relate to what’s coming. The purpose of foreshadowing is to get your reader thinking, “What could this mean?” and make them worry about your hero or about what could happen to them.
7. High Stakes
When writing suspense fiction, make sure your main character’s goals and reasons for achieving them are clear from the outset of the story. As your story progresses, the stakes should get higher to build the momentum and suspense of the story.
8. Put Time on Your Side
You can easily build up suspense and tension by putting time constraints on your characters; the suspense will naturally build and give your story momentum.
9. Pressure-Filled Situations
Create situations that put pressure on your hero. You must test your hero to the breaking point, but make sure your hero never breaks, no matter how stressful the situation is.
Make your hero go through several unexpected events and have nothing be straight-forward; it adds a bit of intrigue and suspense to the story.
11. Intriguing Villains
In a suspense story, the villain is always present. Make sure this antagonist of your story is smart and motivated. Let the readers know and understand why the villain makes particular choices. Make the readers believe in and fear the villain, and make the villain a worthy opponent for the hero.
12. Provocative Heroes
The suspense hero must be believable and sympathetic. Also, take time to show your readers why they should care about the hero.
13. Use Parallel Plotlines
Using parallel plotlines is a great literary device for instantly building suspense. Your readers will be compelled to keep reading to find out how and why the two storylines connect.
Writing a suspense story does not need to be a daunting task. But, it does take a lot of forethought and planning.
How Do You End a Horror Story?
Everything Is Gone
At the end of this kind of horror story, everyone is dead, everything is destroyed, and there’s nothing left and no hope of anything ever rising from the ashes. Often this means good has won, and there’s no one left to fight but also nothing left to live for, though it can also mean that evil has won absolutely.
Good Conquers Evil… For Now
This is a classic. You’ve seen it before: the villain has been vanquished, dead and buried, and then the hand shoots out of the grave, or the prophecy promises the curse will return. This is a great way to go if you’re building a sequel or a series.
Hero Wins the Battle But Loses Something Else
The monsters have been quelled; the hero is victorious, everything on the surface is returning to normal. Except… something is wrong. Often this will come in the form of a post-trauma effect.
A Shred of Hope Remains
Here, everything is pretty bad – the villain might be dead or just about to be brought to justice, and everyone is broken. But there’s hope that maybe, somehow, something might be okay again, one day.
The Lesser Evil Remains
The hero has beaten the ultimate evil, and that part of the battle has been won. But, evil remains involving a secondary dimension of threat. This is often a great ending to craft a moral ambiguity, a discomfort that fits nicely into the unease inherent in the horror genre.
Whichever ending you choose for your horror story, the payoff only needs to do one thing – honor the genre.
How Do You Get Your Book Published?
The prospect of publishing a novel can be daunting. As the book publishing industry shifts toward digital publishing options in addition to traditional publishing, first-time novelists have increased opportunities to get published.
Methods for Self-Publishing a Novel
1. Via print-on-demand: Perhaps the lowest risk publication method in the publishing world is print-on-demand, where copies of a book are only printed when someone orders one.
2. As an ebook: Issuing digital copies of a book on an on-demand basis is even easier, as it requires no paper and no printing apparatus.
3. Via self-printing: You can self-print books in advance of publication and hope they will sell later.
4. As an audiobook: Today’s audiences frequently consume novels as audiobooks. It requires a narrator, who may be called upon to record dozens of hours of prose narration.
Steps for Getting Your Book Published Traditionally
1. Edit and proofread: A bevy of typos will make you look unprofessional. Remember that you may only get one chance with a publisher or literary agent; make sure they are seeing the best work you have to offer.
2. Identify a target audience for your book: A writer’s market for publishing houses is determined by their book’s markets—the potential audience who would be interested in their book. Within the publishing industry, certain genres hold more appeal than others.
3. Identify potential agents: While having an agent doesn’t guarantee your book will find a publisher, it certainly helps.
4. Submit your book proposal: Most literary agents do not want you to send an entire novel as part of a cold call. Here are some things they likely will want: A query letter, a 1-2 page synopsis of the entire novel, and 1-5 sample chapters—these combined elements from your book proposal.
5. Submit directly to a publisher: If you don’t have an agent, you can sometimes submit directly to a publisher—just know your odds of acceptance are very slim.
Hopefully, this article gave you some ideas regarding thriller novels.