Now, I’m no expert. But I have read quite a few thrillers in my day, all of which have a lot of elements that I love. However, some thrillers I’ve read have left me feeling. . . Not so thrilled. I decided that I would take my knowledge of the genre and it’s plot devices and give you viewers at home some tips and tricks that you can use when writing your thrillers. If you’re itching to ruin a good thriller, here are some perfectly good ways to do just that.
Step One : Spend way too long on the BUILD UP / BACKSTORY so the reader gets bored halfway through and no longer cares who the killer is
There have been a couple thrillers I’ve read recently (cough, A Dark, Dark Wood cough) that have taken wayyyyyyy too long to get to the big reveal, or even just a climatic moment in general. I don’t mind a good slow burn, but if it takes 200 pages to get somewhere interesting than that’s about 100 pages too long.
Step Two : Write unlikeable characters that the reader can’t sympathize with
This is a big one for me because I love characters. Characters are probably my favorite part of reading and I can get attached to characters very easily. So, if you’re trying to ruin a thriller be sure to create characters that are both unrealistic and also unlikeable enough that a reader doesn’t care what happens to them. I love a good villain, a character that you just love to hate. When I say unlikeable I don’t mean that they’re the bad guy and you shouldn’t root for them. I mean write a protagonist that is so bland and unconvincing, with zero genuine and believable motivation(s), and you got yourself an unlikeable character.
Step Three : Stick in too many flashbacks
It’s always fun to go back and forth in time but if it happens too much, the reader will be taken out of the story and no longer feel as, I guess you could say, thrilled. I always think it’s better to keep the reader where the action is.
Step Four : Give away too much, too quickly
My number one pet peeve is when a thriller or mystery hints to the killer or major plot point way too early. I understand you gotta do some setting up in order for the reader to understand why things went down the way that they did, but I personally like being a little shocked. Not something so out of left field that it doesn’t make sense, not that kind of shocked. The, “Oh wow I can’t believe I didn’t put that together sooner!” shocked.
Step Five : GO FOR THE MOST SHOCKING ENDING, INSTEAD OF THE BETTER ENDING
Step Four leads me right into Step Five. I understand that shock value is one of the most important elements of a thriller, otherwise readers feel let down. However, I HATE when you can tell that an author picked the most “unsuspecting” character to be the killer from the get-go, even if it doesn’t make sense for the story. There needs to be some ground work put in to make it feel like the chain of events could unfold that way, but us readers just didn’t see it coming. Like I said in Step Four, it’s fun to be surprised, but if you really want to ruin a thriller, go for shock value over anything else.