Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 9, 2014

Pledge This Before Starting a Thriller Novel

For my next manuscript I plan to write a thriller, so I bought
How to Write a Damn Good Thriller: A Step-by-Step Guide for Novelists and Screenwriters by James N. Frey to study.


I thought you might be interested in James Frey’s list of what to pledge before starting your novel.

A thriller is a pulse-pounding supsense. In the US, mysteries are not considered thriller, though they share some common elements.

In a mystery, the hero has a mission to find a killer.

In a thriller, the hero has a mission to foil evil.

To write a damn good thriller, you need a killer attitude. Pledge to yourself to do the following:

  1. Commit yourself to creating strong conflicts in every line of every scene.
  2. Decide you will have fresh, snappy dialogue and not a single line of conversation.
  3. Decide to write quickly when drafting. Fast is golden.
  4. Give yourself production quotas of at least a thousand words everyday, even if you have a tough day job like kissing up to bad bosses. Three or four thousand would be better.
  5. If your significant other complains your thriller writing is taking up too much of you time, get a new significant other.
  6. Commit yourself to this: You will not have any major characters that are bland and colorless. They will all be dramatic types, theatrical, driven, larger than life, clever.
  7. Create a step sheet for the whole novel or screenplay. You might start your first draft if you know your opening and have an idea for the climax.
  8. Trick the expectations of the reader and create nice surprises from time to time.
  9. Have your character in terrible trouble right from the beginning, and never let them get free of terrible trouble until the climax.
  10. Have powerful story questions operating at all times.
  11. End each scene or section of dramatic narrative with a bridge, a story question to carry the reader to the next one.
  12. Always keep brainstorming and think about what’s happening off scene.
  13. Make charts for the major characters that tell you what they’re doing when they’re not on scene.
  14. Try to be fresh. Don’t use the same old cliches.
  15. Be sure your prose is colorful and sensuous.
  16. Keep the clock ticking and the excitement mounting right to the climactic moment.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. These are great tips for writing in any genre!


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