Top Five Tips For Writing A Psychological Thriller by Jenny Blackhurst
Jenny Blackhurst, author of THE NIGHT SHE DIED - out now, gives her top tips for writing your own psychological thriller
Posted on October 8, 2018 in Guest Author
Tags: Jenny Blackhurst, The Night She Died, psychological thriller, writing tips
- Don’t force a twist.
If you’re wracking your brains for the perfect twist, chances are it’s the wrong one. All of the best twists happen organically, and don’t worry if you don’t have one in mind right now! I wrote Before I Let You In and only realised the twist one chapter from the end. It meant a lot of re-writing to ensure it worked logistically, but it also meant that the majority of readers didn’t see it coming (probably because neither did I!)
- Foreshadowing is key
The ultimate aim for the psychological thriller is that, once the reader knows the end, they should have been able to see it coming. If they go back and read it again from the start (and I’ve had a lot of people say they want to) the reader should be able to spot all the little things they missed on the first read and shout, aha!
- It’s not always about the shock factor
Psychological thrillers are about playing with readers’ minds and emotions, and it isn’t always about the most shocking thing that could happen – it’s about the worst things that could happen to the specific characters. Which leads me on to…
- Make people root for your characters
This doesn’t just count for psychological thrillers, but every story ever told. If a reader doesn’t care about the characters they might get to the end of the story, and they might have thought it was okay, but there will be no emotional connection. It won’t be one they are rushing out to recommend and it won’t be the first book they think of when people say: ‘Read anything good lately?’ Characters need to grow and change, and they need to have flaws and be real people. Extra reading: look up The Hero’s Journey and find out why we all devoured Harry Potter.
- Your life will be golden if you can find ‘the hook’
It’s what every editor is looking for, that (ideally, one-line) pitch that hooks a potential reader in and makes them go oooooooohhhh. If you can get this hook fixed before you start, not only do you have a great point of reference if your work begins to slide too far from your original idea, but you will find it much easier to answer when you get the inevitable: ‘What’s your book about?’
Here are my hooks:
Susan Webster went to prison four years ago for killing her son, a crime she can’t remember committing. Yesterday she received a picture of a four-year-old boy with her son’s name on the back. Is she really guilty? How can her son still be alive?
Dr Karen Brown, a psychiatrist who spends her life fixing others, receives a visit from a patient who knows more about her than is possible. As the sessions continue, Karen realises that she and those around her are in danger. Because Jessica doesn’t want to be fixed – she is here to right a few wrongs of her own.
The residents of Gaunt think that 11-year-old Ellie Atkinson is a witch. Bad things happen to people who upset her. But child psychologist Imogen Reid doesn’t believe in evil, and she’s determined to prove that Ellie is just a sad, lonely child. Until the day she upsets Ellie and finds out what everyone is so afraid of.
Why would Evie White jump off a cliff on her wedding day? Her best friend and husband aim to find out – but did they ever really know Evie at all?