Monday, June 25, 2018

This is Thriller

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What is thriller?

Aside from being an epic song from the 80’s, accompanied by a stellar music video and dance routine, thriller is a literary, film, and television genre. I know, this is a blog for aspiring authors, but TV shows and movies all begin on paper (or the screens of various devices that facilitate writing, which will surely claim our eyesight in time…). For those aspiring to become screenwriters of either medium, I shall not discriminate.

While often mixed with other genres and having multiple subgenres (which we will explore in future posts), there are key ingredients required to be a thriller: suspense (a genre unto itself, more on that later), surprise, and excitement. It should give you thrills and chills. There ought to be twists and turns and hooks built into each word for the reader to monkey bar-swing forward on. Thrillers don’t have to be fast-paced, but they do need to be driving. They should create energy, anticipation, and the ever-important motivation to turn the page.

Page-turner: something we all want our finished product to be but is expected of a thriller. We don’t want potential readers stopping at the first page and setting it back on the physical/digital shelf. We want their heart pounding—we want them red-eyed late at night, having lost track of time, and without an ounce of regret when they’re half-dead in the morning because our story is that. Damn. Good.

It’s possible. I’ve been on the reading end of books like that. I intend to write books like that. You can too.

OK, S.A., but how?

With literary devices. With brain science. By reading and watching examples of what works, and what doesn’t. I follow a screenwriter who intentionally watches crappy movies and critiques them as examples of what not to do. It’s OK do to that. Read some less than acclaimed works and see what problems jump out at you. Of course, read quality work too.

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See how masters of the craft construct a story, chapter, paragraph, and sentence. What are their word choices? How can one word make the difference between mere information and a gut punch? You don’t have to go digging through a thesaurus, in fact one famous author (Stephen King) advises against it. It’s possible to search within your vocabulary to find words that hold a charge and light up your sentences. Your writing will shine so bright, you’ll be blinding folks quicker than social media on smartphones. We’ll dig into this more, but when you find words that hold weight for you and drop them on the page, it’s both impactful and authentic.

It’s all about authenticity. Your voice is what sets you apart, and is developed by writing, rewriting, and writing some more. Use it to evoke imagery and tone in a way that leaves your readers sucking in the page with their mouth agape. Say exactly what you mean by setting a scene that jumps off the page, and readers will turn, turn, turn just to keep filling out the picture.

Not sure how to do that? Haven’t found your voice yet? That’s alright. We’ll work that out together.

We’ll talk about the at times elusive concept of show versus tell. We’ll learn how to use plot twists, red herrings, and cliffhangers to your advantage and to the excitement of your readers. We’ll discuss killing your darlings and trimming the fluff off your drafts to maximize impact. Stick with me. It’s going to be good.

I’d love to hear from you.

What are you reading? What are you writing? What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see/hear the word thriller? Hit me with your questions and I’ll give you my best answers.

Be sure to tune in for next month’s post, but till then:

Stay inspired. Be thrilled. Write on.