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A Reader Asks…How can writers power up their openings?

05/27/2009

“In POWER PLAY and KILLER INSTINCT you had a killer opening that raised not only great story questions but high stakes in a flash-forward moment before returning to a slower paced revealing of the protagonist’s everyday world. These openings also set up the Thriller feel to the book nicely. Any suggestions on how writers can power up their openings, or other areas of their stories to nail that ‘thriller’ feel?”

Here’s the trick of writing a thriller: you need to grab your reader right away — but at the same time, you need to introduce them to a world that feels natural and normal. Because thrillers are about disruption of the ordinary world and our attempt to restore normalcy. So . . . I always recommend starting in the middle of things — as late as you can into a story, where something big is just about to happen. And the most important advice I can give you in this regard is to be stingy with backstory. Don’t load down the introduction of your main character with biography and description Be frugal. Parcel it out. Think of a good action movie, where we meet the hero living his or her life, doing something — and then the inciting incident takes place in the first 10 or 15 minutes. Gradually as the movie (or book) goes on, we get to know the hero much better.