As action-thriller writers, you want to put your readers on the edge of their seats with their breaths shallowed as they grip their books white-knuckled. Here’s how you can achieve that.
In exchange for the solvency of his company, Joe is given a mission to accompany the trade minister’s son to America safely. But in the process, he is haunted by the ghost of his past. His past as a CIA agent gets uncovered as he becomes the prime suspect in the minister’s murder. He is then plunged into a brutal game of cat and mouse, as he’s chased down by the most powerful gang in the country. In this story of The Secret Empress by Frank Heller, we’re given a taste of how thrillers are written.
A thriller is typically a fast-paced novel that’s written to excite its readers and thrust them into a world of tension, conflict, suspense, and twists. In thrillers, every scene is written to move the action forward, have the readers gripping the edge of their seats, and leave them with mysteries that will be answered. Thrillers are a popular genre for these exact reasons. What do you do to create a great thriller like Heller?
Open your novel with action
Just as the romance genre has meet-cute scenes to introduce their pair and start the pace of their stories, action-thrillers also need action scenes as openers. The opening scene is pivotal in any book, especially with action-thrillers. It’s where you reel your readers and hook them in your story. However, your opener doesn’t need to be explosive. You don’t need to have anyone die from the beginning; you can do with anything small as long as it can excite your readers to introduce your protagonist and the overall concept of your story.
Make sure to highlight what’s at stake
To hold onto your reader’s attention and interest, ensure that you’ve introduced your character’s goal – the very thing they’re working hard to achieve. Make your readers care about and root for your protagonist by showing them the risks of what they’re doing and what they might lose if they aren’t successful. This risk can be internal or external.
For instance, In The Secret Empress, what’s at stake is laid out obviously to the readers. If the characters can’t avoid the enemies, they risk getting killed or harmed. However, this risk doesn’t only revolve around the protagonist, as he has someone he needs to care for and protect. This adds importance or weight to his success – making it an external risk.
Add an exhilarating build-up to the climax
Your story’s climax is one of the most crucial points in your book. This scene or series of events can make or break your readers’ investment in your story. Here are a few points you can do for your climax:
Create nail-biting action
You need to make sure that your readers root for your character, and action scenes can be another way to do it. To build great fight scenes, ensure that you’ve shown how your character’s abilities can withstand the antagonists’ strength. For instance, in The Secret Empress, they tackled the action scenes and established that the protagonist could protect the Secret Empress on skills of his former life. As a past CIA agent, it’s been set up that he can fight and win over their adversaries.
Additionally, action scenes are where your readers are on the edge of their seats, gripping their books white-knuckled. Hence, you shouldn’t make it drag out. You want to write fight scenes detailed enough so your readers can picture every punch and kick in their minds, but at the same time, you don’t want to be unnecessary that it affects the pace of your story. Find a balance. Create heart-stopping fight scenes without creating an unnecessarily long narration that affects your readers’ attention.
Lastly, give your story a gratifying ending
Unlike what fairy tales teach us, endings don’t need to be happy. When it comes to action-thrillers, you don’t always need to let your protagonist win. In life, wins don’t easily come to you. You need to ensure that your endings fit your story and that you only end your story once you’ve given your character a full arc. Make sure you’ve already answered and settled all the questions and sometimes the mysteries. However, in some cases, you may be able to leave your story open-ended, where your readers can interpret how the story progresses beyond what you’ve written to their liking.