Writing tips from mystery and thriller writers By…

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Writing tips from mystery and thriller writers

Through the lens of mystery we see humanity at its best and worst

Readers love asking their favorite authors questions, especially when it comes to advice about writing! Get inspired by some of these best-selling mystery and thriller authors. Don’t be afraid to ask any of these Featured Authors for their tips about writing, and make sure your own Ask the Author is enabled from your Goodreads Author Dashboard and you answer the question, “What mystery in your own life could be a plot for a book?”

Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code

“Rather than outlining your plot in chronological order, try outlining your plot as if it were a candle burning at both ends. Begin the process by writing your first and last chapter simultaneously. It may be helpful to make the protagonist’s circumstances in these two chapters as different from one another as possible. This will require your character to undergo a series of changes between the beginning and end…changes that can serve as pillars on which to construct the middle of the book.”

Mary Higgins Clark, author of Where Are the Children?

“The advice would be to everyone who wants to write: start it. But specifically, if you want to be a suspense writer, something I did that was extremely helpful may work for you. I wanted to see how Daphne du Maurier was able to give the suspense to Rebecca that made that book a classic. I wrote the first paragraph and the last paragraph of every chapter and did a synopsis of what went in that chapter. It was a wonderful way to see how she built suspense in such a subtle manner.”

Linwood Barclay, author of No Time for Goodbye

“I think that what drives a thriller need to be something that matters, like a family member. It needs to have a sense of momentum, that the story is like a boulder rolling down a hill, picking up speed with each chapter. And, as much as possible, a little twist, or something, at the end of every chapter to make you want to go on to the next one. If I get at all bored while writing the story, I know the reader will be bored, too. I have to keep myself interested.”

Tana French, author of In the Woods

“When you write psychological crime, you spend a lot of time thinking about why this specific character would commit such an immense crime as murder—and the answer is often (not always) rooted deeply not only in the individual character, but in the flaws and priorities of the society around him or her.”

Joseph Finder, author of Vanished

“Inspiration comes from different sources at different points in the process. When I’m just starting a book, thinking about the main character and the premise, inspiration really can come from anywhere: the news, conversations I overhear between strangers, magazine ads, other books I’m reading. When I’m in the midst of writing, inspiration may take more of a problem-solving mode: if x happens, what then? If y, then what? I will often find images in magazines or online that resonate with the story I’m writing—something that gives me an idea of what Nick Heller’s DC loft looked like, or the resort in Power Play, or the hideout in Buried Secrets. A writer’s magic words are, ‘I can use this.’”

Jacqueline Winspear, author of Maisie Dobbs

“I don’t see why a work of mystery or any other ‘genre’ fiction should not be literary. Some of the best, most intelligent, literary writing today is coming from writers in what people term ‘the mystery genre’—and it’s in mystery that readers are exposed to fiction dealing with the sharp end of societal problems, historical events, etc. The fact that a mystery takes the reader through chaos to some sort of resolution speaks to the human condition—through the lens of mystery we see humanity at its best and worst.”

A version of this article appeared at Goodreads