by author of For the Love of Grace and The Second Son, Andy Blackman
I have been asked this many times and it remains a hard question to answer from an author’s point of view, you see most of us have a different perspective on what makes something good, for some they watch a film and think it’s the best film of the year for other it’s the worst film of the year, so you see it is all about perception. So, when writing a good thriller, you must aim at an audience and hope they have the same mind set as you, I personally think a good thriller is one that has a good theme running through the book with side plots emerging along the way, the characters should be believable, with this in mind we all have a moral compass which we live our lives by, so the characters should have too, so to believe a character you have to give them guidelines. The central plot should not really deviate from its course if it does then readers will become confused and properly give up. I tend not to over complicate my characters and limit them, what this means is not to have too many characters popping in and out of the book, otherwise in becomes complicated for instance, you use a character in chapter one and do not re-visit the character until the end of the book by this time, no doubt some had forgotten them completely as they read the book, and have to re-read the start to find out about the character again, that’s why I say keep them simple and believable that way you will not confuse readers.
The most important thing in a good thriller is having something happen that was not expected, be it a character dying or an event that was a surprise and not expected. These things keep the book moving a long but remember do not overcomplicate story lines and characters let them evolve naturally, also plan the order things are going to happen in the book, the book should flow from start to finish. The real trick is to let the reader think they know what is coming then give it a twist leaving them with a sense of “never saw that coming”. If you can achieve that then you are on the way to writing a good thriller. Be aware of the places you are setting in your book, I prefer places I have been to and visited, that way when outlining the story line within the book it makes sense, and you are not spending hours on the internet doing background work, saying that it is important to do research, while writing my latest book, “google became my friend”, and you need to find out if something is possible for a plot or character to achieve you don’t want to describe one of your characters as an overweight middle aged man, only to get him to run the hundred metres in a time that would impress the Olympics, so some research is necessary. But do not get bogged down with facts and figures only include them if they are necessary to the central plot, or some characters make up. As a side note to characters try and not create a character on someone you know, by all mean use their personalities and habits but only as a loose connection, and never use real names.
Lastly, enjoy it, do not let anyone tell you, you cannot do it, if you have a good idea for a thriller, then go for it, but as a word of caution try and keep it simple, by that I mean when you have a character speak or you are describing something, try and use plain English and not words you need a dictionary sitting next to you to consult, as you read the book. Remember the book is from you so try and incorporate your personality on it and have fun, it is a journey that anyone can make but few choose to, so once you have finished be proud of yourself and what you have achieved.
About the authors: After serving in the British Army for over twenty-five years in the Parachute Regiment, Andy Blackman today lives in Bedworth, Warwickshire and works within in the IT sector. In his spare time he can be found visiting his three daughters and grandchildren. His previous novel, For the Love of Grace, was published in 2016. The Second Son by Andy Blackman (published by Clink Street Publishing October 5th 2017, RRP £9.99 paperback, £4.99 ebook) will be available to buy online from retailers including Amazon.com and to order from all good bookstores.