The art of writing a suspense or mystery thriller

Posted on January 5, 2012


I just finished reading “The Girl with the dragon tattoo” by Stieg Larsson. Yep I “just” finished it. whatever it is with popular books I always end up reading very late. Cause I have an ego issue where I think if a book is popular then it is dumb as only dumb people go by the hype be it for books or for movies. Ultimately I pick up the book because I don’t have anything to read or bored by other genres. Once I subscribe to that author’s thought then I am a regular devoted follower even though the follow-ups are pathetic.

So coming back to the topic (sorry just wandered off) it was an okay mystery thriller which had decent premise standard set of suspects and finally an okay suspense in the end which didn’t throw me off the bed or something. This has been the general trend with all the mystery thriller or crime suspense books that I have been reading , you have crime to solve, you throw in a few suspects with too much weight-age on the one innocent guy/gal making him/her look bad and then the least suspected guy coming out to be the culprit. These are all one dimensional stories working towards one goal like while driving on a road we loose control and slowly we see ourselves crashing into something ahead . So we know we are crashing ahead within  5 seconds or so and the story is that 5 seconds. I hope I am making myself clear.

A great suspense story which should throw you off your feet or bed is the one where you are side-slammed . Basically you are hit from the side when you are not even expecting that. I have never even come across such story in the book and would request my few (very very few) reader friends who accidentally stumble upon my blog if they know such books , please recommend it to me (obviously without the spoilers 🙂 ). An example although from movies would be “The sixth sense”. All the while we are made to believe that this is the little boy’s story who is seeing ghosts and we never expected (SPOILER ALERT) Bruce Willis to find himself to be the ghost. A SIDESLAM.

So my point is a good suspense novel does not have to be one dimensional.At the end of the book people should have the urge to read the book again to reconnect the dots or at least think about it for sometime and say “Man how did I miss that” rather than the standard “oh he was on my suspects list”

1) it could have two or more parallel stories with different themes (crime,
religion,archeology,sci-fi) connected  and then they merge into a mystery

2) Two or more totally different stories not connected at the start but suddenly the suspense is that are connected to each other

3) Or a totally new technique of SIDESLAM.