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James N. Frey (not to be confused with James Frey (no middle initial), the fibber) has written several books on writing and the one I want to talk about today is How to Write a Damn Good Thriller.
I love this book. It’s easy to understand and follow, and I like how my plot started shaping up with this structure.
He has chapters on:
- How to develop a damn good idea
- The villain, your new best friend
- Secrets of clever plotting
- The hero
- Voice and viewpoint
- Gripping opening, damn good climax and satisfying resolution
And the chapter I want to talk about: How to Plot a Damn Good Thriller.
Before we get there, I cannot urge you strongly enough to BUY HIS BOOK. There are valuable insights and information that I am not going over here that you should know. I’ll wait here while you go order the book.
Back already? Great!
Frey divides his novels into five self-explanatory movements:
- The Gripping Opening
- The Evil Plot gets underway and the hero fights a defensive battle
- Turning Point (often a symbolic death and rebirth), the hero goes on the defensive
- Hero Confronts Villain, who almost wins, but is finally defeated in a slam-bang climax
- Resolution, tells what happens to the major characters as a result of the hero’s victory or defeat
Plotting using this structure gives me more detail, more ideas to write towards. For me, more detail is good because I need those guideposts to keep me from going too far astray. The more pieces I have to fill in before I start writing, the faster I will write in November.
Here’s my take on it:
NaNoWriMo 2011 novel (now open for title suggstions):
- The Gripping Opening: Kate opens her shop to see it vandalized, although she heard nothing last night.
- Evil Plot Gets Under Way: Police find no evidence, video cameras also pick up nothing, Meanwhile, she’s getting pressure from Myra to move or sell the house back to her.
- Turning Point: After spending another night in the shop, Kate realizes the vandal is a poltergeist. She is frightened, but decides nothing will keep her from her dreams ever again.
- Hero Confronts Villain: Kate and Todd confront the ghost, who moves on after seeing the families are no longer feuding.
- Resolution: Kate has a small display honoring the ghost of Todd’s family, Myra takes a knitting class and Todd finally expresses his interest in Kate.
This is better, but I think I need more structure for this novel. There are big gaps in my plot here. For example, you don’t know that Myra and Todd are siblings. Also, you only get the briefest hint of subplots here, Myra wants the house because it used to belong to her family and Todd has fallen in love with Kate.
Wait until tomorrow, when we get to my current favorite plotting structure – Dan Wells’ Seven Point System.