The Best Thriller Novels Are Non-Stop

In 2010 a film called “Unstoppable” was released in theaters. This film was based on a real life incident of a runaway train that kept gaining speed and to all outward appearances could not be stopped. A Thriller novel should be written at the same pace as a runaway train. The story should keep moving, gaining speed until it finally reaches the end. The reader should be so involved that putting down the book becomes a challenge. It’s all about pacing in a thriller novel. Pacing controls the speed at which a story is told. In well written thriller the reader should be grabbed from the beginning and pulled along at a rapid pace. The events unfold in a timely manner and not a lot of time elapses in the story.

In “A Moving Screen” the readers immediately find themselves inside a darkened room where a figure with no discerning features is pouring gasoline everywhere. And a woman lies naked on a table. Immediately the reader’s curiosity is aroused.



In Harlan Coben’s “Stay Close,” the first paragraph describes how a photographer, Ray Levine, sees blood. Continuing to read the reader gets to these sentences:


“That horrible moment–the moment when Ray’s life changed completely, transforming him from a man with a future and aspirations into this Grade-A-loser you see in front of you–never visited him in his dreams or when he sat alone in the dark.”

I wanted to know why he saw blood so I kept reading.

With an opening like that an author cannot afford to disappoint. It becomes his or her mission to deliver the rest of the story quickly so that curiosity can be satisfied. And how does an actor do this?  With a few techniques such as the following:

ACTION. Action “shows” what happens in a story.

 CLIFF HANGERS. When the outcome of a chapter is left hanging, the pace picks up because the reader will continue to turn the page to find out what happens next.

DIALOGUE. Witty, clipped dialogue with little or no need for explanation is swift and moves the story along.

SHORT CHAPTERS.  Short chapters are easier to read and they end quickly.

WORD CHOICE. Use words that subtly pick up the pace. Action verbs and strong nouns can say more in a few short sentences.


****Avoid complicated prose.