Thursday, September 8, 2011

Guest blogger: Suspense author S.L. Pierce

Please give a warm welcome to S.L. Pierce, who knows how to make you sit on the edge of your seat and jump at a plot twist.  Her new novel is The Devil's Game. I asked her to discuss how she fills her writing with suspense. 

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What makes a good thriller?  I thought I might answer that today with an example.

1)  The noise was coming from the bedroom.  But that was impossible.  No one else was home.

2)  It was faint.  Just the slightest creak.  But it was enough to pull her from a deep sleep.  Out of habit she got up to check the baby, but stopped herself short.  Michael was gone.  Forever.  And the house was empty.  Wasn't it?  

Do you find yourself drawn in by number two more than number one?  Why is the baby gone?  Who is in the house? 

There are two things that make a good thriller (in my opinion).  The first, of course, is making the reader curious.  But just the right amount of curious.  You have to give them little crumbs; just enough to keep them interested but not so much they figure out the mystery too soon and lose interest.  It's a fine line and a good writer has to find that balance. 

Second, and more important, is making the reader care about the character(s).  You can write the most edge of your seat, nail biting, thrilling story and yes, that will get people to start reading, but if they don't care about the character, they won't keep reading.  Look at the example above.  Aren't you just a little more curious about the second example?  Aren't you a little more invested? 

Not convinced?  It really hits home with me when I think of one of the bestselling and prolific writers out there today.  I'm sure you know who I mean.  I used to love his books, but for the last few years I haven't been able to read them.  Why?  Because he hasn't made me care about the characters.  His story plots are great – fast and fun.  But the characters are flat.  Boring.  Unrealistic.  And I just don't care about them. 

Thriller readers, think about that the next time you read the first few pages or download a sample.  What makes you keep reading and what makes you put the book down or delete the sample without buying.  I'll bet it's lacking one if the items mentioned above. 

Writers, look at your opening; can you make the reader invest a little more in the story with just a few extra words?  Take a few sentences and give it a try.

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You can visit S.L. Pierce at her blog.


  1. Good points, S.L. Pierce! I agree totally that you have to have a great first paragraph to hook the reader. Especially if they are a reader like me who will lose focus and interest if the book isn't filled with action.

    I think both #1 & #2 get my attention but especially #2. The few more details definitely would have me hooked to read on. #1, left me wondering what noise is the POV hearing?

  2. Excellent point. It's all about the people. We humans relate to other humans, and that's what drives us in a great story. BTW, I think I know the author of whom you speak (JP?), and I too quit him after reading his first dozen books. I'm sick of movies on paper. Write for me, gosh darn it!

  3. It is nice to read a refreshing recap on What makes a good thriller! I'm with you 100% Keep the writing rolling!

  4. Yes Lane - that is the author of whom I speak:) You hit the nail on the head

  5. If you were really a suspense writer wouldn't you leave your conclusion hanging? :P Great stuff and truth with a capital T.

  6. Hello, I've really enjoyed this post! Making your readers care for your characters is so much more important than anything else.

  7. Great advice. You are so right--wanting to care about the characters drives readers into the story. I'm afraid I am one of those authors who knows the story, but I don't take time to develop the character...just race to the end to get the story told. I always have to go back and make notes for fleshing out the characters...and that makes writing even more fun.