What I’ve learned about writing a thriller novel
Writing a thriller novel is no mean feat. I can’t count the number of people who told me I should write a thriller. This is because most of my stories involve someone getting murdered or accidentally killed. I have no problem writing a murder scene – that I can do.
I certainly have no difficulty writing the chapters for my hapless murderer, Andres. But when it comes to writing the scenes about the police investigation and all the forensics inTELL, I find myself swimming in soup. Writing a thriller novel is as much about the characters as the details. This is what I learned from Peter James and James Patterson. But do I want to contact my local police station for advice and “works” experience? No, I do not. I’m not ready to get out in the field just yet.
So, here’s what I’m doing with my dark comedy thriller: I’m concentrating on the Andres chapters, since he’s as clueless as I am about how police investigations and the UK police work in general.
My other main character (let’s call her Sky for now) works in digital forensics. I continue to write her chapters, placing question marks on areas that require expansion.
I have a notebook for my research. I do a lot of my research, not from Google would you believe, but from the TV. There are tons of crime and investigation programmes that cover a lot of forensic and police investigative work. They’re shocking, in-depth and gruesome. (I can stomach watching one a week). For UK-specific, I rely on my Writing magazine. They have a handy crime section with tips and advice from crime writers and policing and forensic experts.
If you’re writing a thriller novel, getting your facts straight is paramount. Do I wish I could make it all up? Well, duh! My main genre is fantasy! But will I rise the challenge? Absolutely!
Excerpt from my thriller novel
Andres watched Pam heap the thin slices of lamb onto his plate. She smiled at him as if looking for his approval for the meal she had ‘cooked’. He had seen the frozen packet in the bin when he had gone through to the kitchen to use Pam’s toilet. They sold the frozen mint lamb with gravy in his local supermarket. He had tried it a couple of times but found it was not to it his liking. It wasn’t the only thing Andres didn’t like in his long list of hang-ups. He didn’t like to have to walk through a kitchen to get to the bathroom. There was something very yuck about that. He had scrubbed his hands clean of course. The bathroom smelt of stale urine and mould. The bin was overflowing and surrounded with empty bottles of wine and vodka. He wondered when she had last emptied it and if she had washed her hands before she had ‘cooked’ the meal.
‘Do you want some more potatoes?’ she said.
They were the small boiled kind and they were undercooked. He stuck his fork into one of the little buggers and it hopped across his plate. ‘I’m okay,’ he said, chewing hard on his potato. He took a mouthful of his gravy with lamb to make it more palpable. He was glad she hadn’t served him a meal with bones. He saw enough of them in his sleep.
He didn’t know why he had agreed to the dinner in the first place. It had something to with The Body. It had to be. It had affected his brain in more ways than he could predict.
Pam thought she had him all sussed out. She thought he liked a homely-woman that enjoyed nothing more than a home-cooked meal and a cold beer. On that part, she had him pegged. His old wife was a bit like Pam in that regard. ‘A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,’ she used to say. But Andres didn’t have a stomach. Not anymore. It was disappearing with a weight of worries.
‘This is lovely,’ he mumbled. He knew what sort of praise was expected and appreciated at dinner parties and would quote them even if he was vomiting the food back onto his plate.
Pam beamed at him. She had barely filled her plate. No doubt, to show him that she liked to keep her figure and keep up the myth that woman ate less than men.
She picked at the food with her fork. It wasn’t how she normally ate. He had seen her a few times sitting in the window of the pie and mash shop wolfing the food down by the ladle.
‘How are you getting on with the book?’ She slurred her words.
‘Okay. Half way through.’ He didn’t know what book she was talking about. He could chatter about a novel for hours in the library with the rest of the group; not in this uncomfortable setting. He hadn’t been on a date in years and was running low on small-talk. He had uttered his best compliments at the start of meal and commented on the weather as soon as he had stepped through the door. They would soon run out of conversation and move on to other…things.