Thriller Writing – A Leap of Faith

by Pamela Hegarty

Every great thriller novel doesn’t begin with action, a dive head first into uncharted waters.  It begins with the writer’s leap of faith.  If you want your readers to believe that a young boy named Harry Potter can learn to cast spells, you’ve got to believe that you can cast spells with your readers. So although I plan to focus on marketing on my Monday posts to this blog, my marketing tip of the day is this:

Believe in yourself. Keep believing in yourself. That is the cornerstone of a successful marketing plan.

Take that leap of faith and allow yourself to try promoting your book creatively. If your thriller is set in a winery, perhaps a winery will display it at their tasting bar and sell it in their gift shop. If your thriller is about genetics, think about getting a blurb from an expert in that field. Distribution networks like Amazon and the internet open new portals to potential readers who are looking for your book. Invite them in.


Ken Follett’s Key Question

By Pamela Hegarty

I was lucky enough to hear Ken Follett speak at last year’s Thrillerfest.  Both entertaining and enlightening.  One of the key questions he asks himself when he is working on a book is:  How can I make this more dramatic?

This simple question can twist a sagging plot into a page-turner.  When writing or rewriting a scene, ask yourself how you can make it more dramatic.  It might mean upping the personal stakes for the hero, placing them in a desperate situation in which the right path is not obvious, or creating a conflict that is not just played out on a grand scale, but also is intimately meaningful.

More dramatic could mean a tweak to the mechanics of the writing.  Especially in thriller fiction, dialog and action trumps exposition.  For example, in a scene I rewrote today, the villain driving away was in the narrative, describing an action that occurred a few minutes before the start of the scene.  In the rewrite, the character sees the villain drives off.  He is in a panic.  The villain had kidnapped his daughter.  He’s getting away, here and now.  The character tries to convince the man he is with to go after him.

I’ve been using a version of Follett’s question.  With each scene of The Seventh Stone that I am rewriting, I ask myself, how does this escalate the tension?  If the reader isn’t more tense at the end of the scene than at the beginning, I fix it, or cut it out entirely.  I place those cuts in a document I call “outtakes” so it doesn’t feel so bad.

Ken Follett will be presenting “How Thrillers Work” at Thrillerfest 2011, on July 7, in New York City.

Look for more posts focusing on plot on Tuesdays here on