word craft



The word thriller seems to have come into the Eng­lish lan­guage at the end of the 19th Cen­tu­ry. Ken Fol­lett cites the 1903 nov­el The Rid­dle of the Sands (Childers) as the first mod­ern thriller. I’d sug­gest The Turn of the Screw. James Pat­ter­son, by way of def­i­n­i­tion, speaks of the thriller’s “inten­si­ty of emo­tions,” the build­ing of “appre­hen­sion.” I’m inter­est­ed because I’m work­ing on a thriller. Not easy. As I try to shape the emo­tions to build appre­hen­sion, I must focus, cut, sharp­en, deep­en. If I slip, if the pace slack­ens, if it gets con­fus­ing, the read­er won’t turn the page. Some­time the term “page-turn­er” is used neg­a­tive­ly. But what writer doesn’t want the read­er to turn the page? If one is speak­ing of young read­ers, what could be bet­ter than turn­ing them into turn­ers of pages? Many of my read­ers tell me my best thriller is Wolf Rid­er. It’s based on some­thing that real­ly hap­pened. But that’s a turn of anoth­er page.

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