Following the release of his debut thriller novel, Robert Hobbs shares his top 10 ingredients for writing a successful thriller:

Robert Hobbs

Robert Hobbs


Sexy locations or unusual places of interest add so much more than window dressing to a plot. The atmospheric arena surrounding a locale and a descriptive notion prick the reader’s attention like nothing else.

Choose your weapon!

The complex handgun has to be the primary weapon of intent, no messing about with one of these. It is not like an accidental overdose or a brush with a potent magic mushroom. There is always a story when someone has a handgun about their person. A gun enhances the drama, especially if ownership is not expected, handled well and is deadly in execution!


Nobody wants a boring plot, uninteresting characters or an easily fathomable crime drama. Readers demand curve balls and surprises, with a dash of good humour, a murder or two and a splash of sex with fast paced action interspersed with the odd hot weapon!


The best-laid storylines have motives for murder hidden in the detail and wrapped in charming subplots with lively character interaction. Readers trying to guess “who did it and why” is all part of the fun, if written well.

Character engagement

I really enjoy making characters that should be boring and behave as expected, doing nothing of the sort. Characters should always be entertaining and unpredictable. They all have their own minds and it is great fun when character’s work together or typically, against each other. How they deal with challenges and difficult circumstances sets a scene much better and are more engrossing to readers than traditional responses and normal real life exchanges. My thriller bites a little deeper, that is what makes a difference.

Against the Clock

Time is a wonderful dimension to play with. When you complete even a simple task, if it is set against a target time, this piles on the pressure. All characters, like real individuals behave differently with the clock ticking. This adds to the mix and heightens the intrigue and amusement value.

Winners and losers

Readers know who the good guys are and who are the unsavoury ones. Do you want the perpetrators to get away with it, or not? Can things really get any worse? Probably and yes they just might! Then something changes massively and the gravity of the situation transcends to a whole new level.

Fact or Fiction

Facts are great, and give a barometer of what is happening and stability and connection to a story outline. Fictional elements can add spice and allow more creative endeavours to unravel, pushing boundaries ever closer to a stomach-churning conclusion.


Emotions are brilliant to play with. We all have them, some seemingly more than others. How we react to the unusual, extreme situations, sets us all apart from one another. Characters unfold their strengths and weaknesses before our very eyes. We make judgements on what we witness, liking some personalities more than others. Then they do something unexpected, which could be for the better or much for the worse.

The Ending

Did you predict the ending with accuracy? Did the book live up to expectations? Did the plot get lost in translation, hopping in your mind from reality to fiction? The ending should set the scene for the beginning of the next chapter of the story, with hopefully some twists to penetrate your thoughts. If the job is done well, your appetite is primed for the adventure to unfold in the next thrilling book from the same author. Enjoy!

Robert Hobbs is the author of Rude Rousing Revenge, which follows one woman’s crusade to solve her sister’s murder. It’s available to buy from The Book Guild, Amazon and all good bookshops.