A ThrillerFest panel last week tackled this question: “Can a thriller be both exciting and smart?” Participants included authors Linwood Barclay, Joseph Finder, Kathleen George, Andrew Gross, Andrew Pyper and Matt Richtel. David Liss moderated the panel.
During the discussion, the participants picked Dennis LeHane‘s Shutter Island, Joseph Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness, and William Landay‘s upcoming Defending Jacob as their favorite smart thrillers.
Below, we’ve included five tips for writing smart thrillers from the discussion.
1. Don’t try to show how smart you are as an author. Instead, create a smart protagonist and ensure that readers want to spend time with your hero.
2. Try to surprise yourself while you’re writing; if you can surprise yourself, there is a good chance you’ll surprise your reader.
3. Ensure that there is a feeling of authenticity whenever you are presenting interesting information.
4. Anticipate where the reader thinks the story is going and then give them something unexpected.
5. Don’t neglect the details–they can make all the difference.