Friday, 29 November 2013

The Sticky Key

 So what exactly is the main thing – the key - to good thriller writing?

I believe it must be ‘edge of the seat’ stuff where you must turn the next page to see what happens next. Easy isn’t it? If only it were …

But there is no denying that ‘page turning quality’ is what it’s all about. The reader should be so engrossed in the story that they don’t want to put it down. The art of good story telling (and thriller writing in particular) means that the writer must use all the tools and skills of creating suspense they can muster to make sure that happens.

However rising tension and suspense is easy to say but not so easy to do and it can feel rather breathless and mind boggling if that is all there is in a story. Indeed there should be parts in a good tale where the action/tension lessens a little so that the reader can draw breath. But it should not be enough to allow the reader’s mind to start meandering or thinking about other things.

Actually, it’s the way I (personally) judge a story. As I get a little way into a book I decide whether the story is holding my attention or not, whether having started it, I even want to finish! If I begin to think about what we’re having for dinner or other mundane things I know the story is not gripping me in the way it should. Lots of passive descriptive telling passages will do that for me. I know you need some of that stuff in a story for it to hold together but it should not be the main thing – especially in a thriller.
Think of the passive bits as the glue that holds the story together. And like the best glue – a little goes a long way.

Do you use passive glue sparingly? Do you agree that too much description can make a book dull?



  1. Great post! Yeah, in my second novel, I can see I might have to cut huge amounts of description. I tried clicking on your book in the side bar. For some reason it wouldn't take me through to Amazon. Good luck with your novels! You have an interesting blog.

  2. I'm afraid it is easy for me at present, writing for children who hate 'glue'. The real challenge will be when I write for grown-ups next year. Good luck with your writing.

  3. I find myself skimming over long passages of descriptions which often ends up with me giving up on the book! Glue - yes, too much just gets messy and annoying :-) x

  4. I always skim long descriptions. Taking a page to describe a tree will have me throwing the book across the room!

  5. I started reading Dean Koontz about five years ago, and he completely changed my perspective on grab-you-by-the-throat tension. I think it should be present in ALL fiction, personally.

  6. I personally love when a books turns out to be a page-turner. Sometimes a book sounds promising, but the writing is too heavy and I stop after a few pages. I skip the long descriptions in stories, but I have to add more to my own writing. My descriptions are sparse. Great post!

  7. I agree that in some books too much description can make for a dull read unless the description is artfully done while ratcheting up the suspense and tension. As a writer I'm continuously trying to find engaging thriller novels to read and learn from. There are many out there to choose from, but there are also many that I read 2-3 chapters from and loose interest.