1. Character – should be complex enough to have an inner life that creates conflict.
Well, you’ve heard of Flat and Rounded Characters, haven’t you? Sometimes a flat character has a place in a story. A flat character may help your main character appear more rounded, but a main character that isn’t rounded in the first place won’t look more realistic just because the other characters are flat and functional expressions.
You have to work on the main characters of your thriller, give them character traits and histories. It’s writing the history of a character that gives you knowledge that you can use in your thriller stories.
Make a list, short, of the physical attributes of a character but focus on building that life history by writing about their childhood and the years of their life that formed them. Normally, in a Thriller the character is involved in a conflict. That conflict is the very thing that rubs him or her up the wrong way. It’s grating against some learned aspect of life that the character calls principles or world view. Integrity of character can only come about through your writing their biography.
Believe it or not, if you like your story and you enjoy writing as much as you believe you do, you will discover that writing about your characters is a fun road of discovery. It’s a relaxing and very creative process – there are no holds barred and therefore you don’t have to worry about readers seeing it. 1000 words on a character is a good start. try it and see how much difference it makes when you go back to your thriller and start writing.
2. Protagonist and Antagonist should not be two opposites – that’s boring. Make them both interesting and write them as if they both believe they are right.
A big bore is when we read a story where the main characters, the good guy and the bad guy are two exact opposites. It’s like looking at a two tone painting for hours on end, you get frustrated and dizzy.
The world is full of people who are right and then more people who know that they are right. All the other people are either wrong, or down right evil; evil because they are destroying the rights of those who are right and have said they are right about something. Those evil baddies just don’t listen, they need to change their ways and do stuff the same way as us. Let’s Nuke ’em!
The bad guy in a thriller is often bad because you, the author, do your best to make the reader think he is bad. The narrative that we use is biased and will show readers who the main character is and what sort of problems he or she has. Those problems are often caused by another person in the story who is trying to force his hand or cause a change which will upset the main characters’ world. Within a few pages of a book we already know who the main character is and often we expect that person to be likeable enough so that we root for him or her.
The antagonists’ world view is just very different to the protagonists’ world view, so we have a clash of ideas and personalities. We create conflict and tension by using a situation and putting into a context that makes us take somebody’s (the protagonist) side.
Imagine a story about two world leaders, both want to rule their own country their own way. One of them happens to be called Adolf Hitler and has plans to dominate and conquer any country that doesn’t defend itself well enough. Who would the bad guy be? But wait, the other guy is called Benito Mussolini and is a fascist leader who does not want to comply with international laws and will use maximum force to eliminate his enemies. He just wants to rule his own country and not the world. Yet, the history books tell us that both of them were “bad guys”. We talk about them as bad guys, but for sure the writer in you knows that there is a story in there somewhere, about two bad guys, but one of them is less bad than the other.
3. Twists in the plot
That’s what we like about a good Thriller, the Twists and Turns of plot. How do the Masters do it? How do they write a Thriller and put those really table thumping plot twists in there, and in the places where we don’t expect them to happen?
You can only find the twist to your thriller when you know your story. That means write it first, but I guarantee that as you write, ideas for plot twists will begin to present themselves and sometimes a real humdinger of twist will seem to pop up out of nowhere – it came because you have been sweating over the keyboard for hours and hours and it’s inevitable. That’s how the masters do it. They don’t have a secret book of Plot Twists to refer to.
My thought is, from experience, when you want a plot twist and you know at which part in the story it should be, then your mind will start looking for it. It’ll happen while your sleeping and dreaming about your characters and plot points. It’ll pop up while your on the bus or in the shower singing. It will come to you if you seek it – that’s a big secret of writing fiction. Things pop up all the time.
It won’t just pop up when you do a quick first outline for a plot. You have to know your characters and plot first.
4. Emotional Content that will make your scenes live and Connect With the Reader.
When you you write a Thriller it’s easy to get wrapped up in the content of the book, and depending on how you write, quickly or a word at a time, you can sometimes forget that one day, somebody’s going to read it. You need to give them a reason to want to read it.
Content and action is cool, but emotion will rule the readers’ mind. Connect with the reader and they will finish the book and go looking for more of the same from you. That emotional connection, with the characters, must happen on the first page and then continue into the second and third page and so on.
Show and tell. Telling people about some action that happened is okay in a lecture hall but in your Thriller you have to write it so that it is shown through actions of the characters.
Choosing active verbs that describe character, being short and precise and thinking about the effects of words on the readers mind will help you develop a habit that makes your thriller thrill and not act as sleeping tablet.
Going back to character biography gives you ideas about how a character will act in a situation and offer ideas for emotional reaction and action to conflict.
5. Look for the Theme of your Novel; it will emerge after you have begun to write the story.
Theme and subject are not the same. You may not find a theme in you novel or thriller, it’ll make it stronger if there is a theme and it will add unity to the whole story.
Again, theme is something that you discover as you write and after the first or second draft is down. generally, it’s not something you can force on a story unless you want to end up writing a tale with a moral in it.
You will know your subject as you think of plot. It could be love or greed or friendship. This is a subject and will lead to a deeper understanding of the aspects of love etc.
Love could go on to become a story about lost love and dealing with a life without the experience of not having a partner to love. Or, the mother and son/daughter love that either fizzles out as an adult or becomes complicated. Theme.
Theme is more about the human experience of the main subjects that we share. That experience is complicated and unique for each human being, therefore its depth reveals different aspects and experiences to the reader. A story of a life that they will never know but can at least feel through reading.