Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

January 30, 2015

First Writing Rule of Thrillers

Filed under: On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 8:38 AM
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“Make everyone fall out of the plane first, and then explain who they were and why they were in the plane to begin with.”

-Nancy Ann Dibble

Because I write thrillers and action/adventures, I receive requests once in a while to read author’s thrillers. More often then not, they break this first rule of writing thrillers.

It took me almost 10 years to write my first thriller. I had to learn the hard way, berated by editors who kept saying ‘A thriller is a page turner. No time to dwell on long narrative passages.’

As writers are told, I would create the necessary character sheet in full detail then begin to read that off when a character is introduced.


As Dibble said, set the thrilling scene first and don’t read off an FBI file of the characters before getting into the action. I return to how movies are written. Check the thrillers out for yourself. There is little time in movies to spend endless minutes describing a character’s background in a thrilling movie. Their ACTIONS and DIALOGUE have to carry that load.

Same with novel thrillers. Let the character backgrounds come out as scenes permit in the flow of the action.  SHOW don’t TELL is the rule here. SHOW the character’s background – not TELL it.

Start your scene in the MIDDLE of action or start with a dialogue. Sure. There are times where several paragraphs of narrative are necessary to get the story out but always ask yourself first, “Can I SHOW this information instead of TELLING it.

Here’s a recent post of mine that gives an example.

If you want to write literature and win that Nobel Prize – fine. But if you break the first rule you will not have a thriller.


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