Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Thrills and chills

Hey all! Still recovering from the flu (2 weeks and I can't seem to shake it). Work is grooving along as usual and I am truly learning the extent of my patience. They say having a child teaches one patience (and, yes, it does), but being an agent really tests your skills lol.

Tiny bit bummed. I was invited to an open house for Abrams/Amulet Books, but had to graciously pass. I do hope everyone going has a splendid time!

Let's talk thrillers, my little beasties. I know much is covered out there on writing queries and how to pitch your work to an agent, so I thought I'd start to focus more on some actual writing tips.

So, thrillers. Of course, you have to have a great storyline. Read what's out there, then write about something that hasn't been done before. Not to say you shouldn't have a burned out cop or serial killer in your story, but try to come at it with a different angle.

Some things that shouldn't be different than what's out there--

1. A great lead character. Some editors tell me they want a lead like Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly), some say they want an Alex Cross (James Patterson). One thing I've never heard an editor say is they want a lead character that's nothing like a Cross or Bosch (or Scarpetta or Reacher).

So, what do all of these characters have in common? They are all simple characters with flaws (just like us). Readers remember these characters, relate to these characters.

2. Pacing. The perfect example (at least for me) is James Patterson. Ever notice his chapters run 3-5 pages?

Know why? Because keeping shorter chapters helps increase pacing. Think about it. Each chapter starts with an issue, builds suspense, then leaves you hanging. If the reader is turning the page to find out what happens next every 3-5 pages, chances are they aren't going to be able to put it down.

Other great suspense/thriller writers do the same thing with extra spacing between sections within a chapter.

3. Hook, hook, hook. Two things to cover here. First, you have to start off with a hook. Don't focus on giving too much back story away in the first chapter of the book. In fact, it's better to weave in the back story later, a bit at a time. Don't have your main character walking down the street, window shopping, before you get to the main action. Start with your character right in the middle of the main action.

This one's more me, but I like a book that does all the set up within the first 50 pages. By page 50 I wanna know exactly what the main storyline's going to be, but with enough of a connection to the story and characters to care what happens to them.

Most of that is my flu-medicated opinion, but something to think about if this is your genre.

Stay literate;)

1 comment:

rcat4 said...

As you may (or may not) know, my "day job" is teach writing as an adjunct professor at college.

When I teach the elements of plot, I do it two ways: the five classical elements, applying to "classic" literature, which includes the exposition, the rising acton, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution; the second way is "modern" literature, which adds a sixth element in the beginning: the Inciting Climactic Event, or the "hook." I teach that it's literally a piece of the climax cut out and put before the exposition to draw the reader into the story within the first few pages.

For example, if you are writing a thriller, say a serial killer-type story, perhaps your hook would be one of your killer's murders.

I tell my students people today have too many things to occupy their iterests, so a writer needs to bacisally stand on a chair and yell and wave his/her arms in order to pull the potential reader away from the Internet, video games, cell phones, HD TV, etc.

You get the idea.