HOW TO WRITE A CHILLER THRILLER  

EXCERPT from the INTRODUCTION

Chiller is short for spine-chiller, which means a book, film etc, that arouses terror.

A thriller means a book, film, play etc, which depicts a crime,mystery or espionage in an atmosphere of excitement and suspense.

So why do the many published and often-hyped-up chiller thrillers fail to deliver the goods? Or am I and other readers just too picky?

Some say there are too many books being printed. And now we have Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, and others to fill the ether as well. In my view, it’s not a question of too many books, but generally, in the crime and thriller genres, their sameness. Yet these categories remain hugely popular and most literary agents and publishers include them in their submission requirements. This is why, in writing this book with its many examples and exercises, my emphasis will be on encouraging you to dare to be different; to stand out from this often predictable material, where the successful author has become a ‘brand,’ and sadly, it’s often hard to tell one of their thrillers from the other.

This is not only a deeply cynical but stifling trend, and personally, I would rather knit a scarf than be told – as a friend of mine once was - to ape a best-selling author of blood-soaked action involving South London gangsters. Someone she’d never even bothered to read. I discovered during my many talks to readers’ groups, that they also felt sold short by mainstream publishers, and preferred to seek out their own gems. It’s word of mouth by groups such as these that can be more lasting than relentless publisher promotion before their latest books’ launch dates. I’m sure you know of interesting examples of titles where this has happened. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for instance, with its flawed, truly original heroine, Lisbeth Salander. An embattled journalist who risks his career to defend her. The bleak settings in a relatively unfamiliar country. An evil father and other ruthless enemies make this a truly chilling thriller.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn also sneaked on the scene, by way of a CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award, bringing another memorable protagonist in the form of reporter Camille Preaker who returns to her former home in Missouri to investigate the murders of two local girls. From her weird mother, to the adjacent pig farm, this chiller has it all.

So, I’m about to fling open a few more metaphorical doors, by encouraging you to begin the journey by dredging yourselves. Your experiences, observations and imaginations, interests, deepest fears and greatest joys - all unique to you - will be crucial in creating original chiller thrillers to haunt your adult, even YA readers’ minds long afterwards.

Also crucial, is an abiding curiosity in those who share our planet. About what we read and hear about them in the media or on our travels. A high-profile crime story or conspiracy theory will bring out the armchair detectives and pundits like moles after rain! Be nosy. Weigh up the (often inadequate/one-sided) information given and do some digging of your own to get the whole story. Everyone, from the seemingly ordinary man next door, to a Head of State has secrets. Some are minor, but some, if known, could have seismic consequences. I often ask those aspiring writers attending my workshops, “who needs fiction?” However, I also believe that this so-called ‘fiction’ carries truth in its belly.

There are and have been many investigative authors, broadcasters and journalists from all over the world who have risked their lives by exposing what they believe their fellow human beings ought to know. Some have been found dead in unexplained circumstances. Others warned off. I’m proud to be linked to the thriller genre with my own work because great expectations ride on its shoulders. Hidden worlds in the broadest sense, can be exposed. Future possibilities explored. Taboos too, which vary from one culture to another. Amongst all this, I’d like to think that thriller writers through their fiction, convey truth, and themselves retain a strong moral compass

 

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