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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.