Thursday, November 20, 2014

How to Develop the Plot of a Thriller Novel?


By James Marinero
When writing a thriller novel, how does the author set up and develop the plot and build more detail?
The theme can start out with one central idea. Then, it can develop from that idea, as the writing progresses.
Others will start with the idea and map out the plot in detail, before writing. That can be seen as formulaic. Once the plot is laid out in a plan, then some would say that it becomes writing by numbers. Keen readers will see these patterns in many thriller novels.
My preferred approach is to start out with a central idea, and let the story flow. With 'Gate of Tears' it was the extraction of gold from seawater.
Of course, that way, you don't know how the story will go. With thrillers most authors will know that the main character will live for another day. Why let him or her live? Well, it enables them to use the character in a sequel. Obvious.
'Gate of Tears' is set mainly in the Middle East, where the Strait known as the 'Bab el Mandeb' - 'Gate of Tears' - guards the southern entrance to the Red Sea. There are other storylines in Alaska and London besides the Yemen, and the geography helped the plot development. I would find it much more challenging to write a thriller novel that was set in a fairly constrained environment - say a prison.
Then there are other challenges. How can an author deal with a stage in the action where a character has been put in an apparently dead-end situation? Well, firstly, the author backtracks. 'Unwriting' is, for me, a copout and also loses an opportunity for further plot intrigue. So, I wait and think, and sometimes it takes a few weeks to work out an answer (I might need to develop another thread to help resolve the situation). I'll take a notebook and go for a walk. And another walk.
Another issue is 'what happens next'?
An author could do as the main character does in 'The Diceman' - identify some options and let the dice decide. That's an interesting way of moving the plot forward. That's the creative bit.
A newish approach is to let the readers decide, issuing one or more chapters at a time and inviting reader input. I don't favour that.
Technology Input
With techno thrillers the technology itself can tell a story. And, then, if the author has some nous, the writer can extrapolate existing technology. I have a defence equipment blog feed which I follow, and that pours out new technology for me. Then, recently on the television I saw the new Honda robot which can hop on one leg and pour a drink. It was scary, and the weapons possibilities are disturbing (or not - maybe they'd save lives). It's not sci-fi anymore - it's here.
The approaches I describe here all help the plot evolve, whilst allowing room for the mystical creative aspect. My favourite though, is when I tell the main character 'Now, get out of that"!
James Marinero is the author of 'Gate of Tears' - a topical techno thriller set in the Middle East. High level betrayal, aerial action, gold market manipulation - the action is gritty and relentless. Discover more at www.jamesmarinero.com Find out more about his writing at his blog


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