ThrillerFest – Author Gayle Lynds

Posted: July 17, 2015 in Writing
Tags: , , , , ,

Her 8, no 9 secrets to creating a bestselling thriller.


OK. I’ll get to her secrets in a minute. But first, a quick note about her.

She’s a New York Times Bestselling author. She co-wrote the Covert-One series with Robert Ludlum. She’s hailed as one of the best spy/espionage writers of today by her peers. And she happens to be a very nice person.

Listening to Gayle speak, you quickly realize what a strong passion she has for writing. She’s was very eager to teach and convey her knowledge – the main staples in writing that she’s learned over the years. Gayle was one of the Master CraftFest writing instructors where they basically lock you in a room with 10 students and a Master writer. I did not get to sit with her, but my friends that attended her session came out glowing with enthusiasm.

On to her secrets!

  1. Characters – These are usual people caught up in something bigger than themselves. It will take extraordinary effort to defeat the conflicts in front of them.
    – Jeopardy – Hero (you must thrust the hero into jeopardy)
    – Menace – Villain (your villain must convey believable menace)
    Your hero must have at least one weakness
    and your villain must have at least one good trait

    This keeps them from being cardboard characters

  2. Dramatic Question – You can test this by putting what the hero and villain wants in one sentence separated by the word ‘or’. (sorry, I didn’t write down any of the great examples she provided)
    But here’s my weak attempt: Will Scott Murphy save his family ‘or’ will the villain (name here) defeat Scott and take over the world?
    Practice this on your own story. You’d be surprised how this helps you define, at least in your own mind, the dramatic question your story should take.
  3. High Stakes – Needs to be larger than one person or the hero (but it’s personal).
  4. High Concept – The focusing concept must be larger than life
  5. Multiple View Point – Better for thrillers. It’s easier to involve the reader in your characters POV, including the villain. You really get to know/hate/empathize with him.
  6. Exotic Settings – These don’t have to be foreign exotic, but something new that we’re not typically aware of. It could be the sewer system of New York City. It could be the control tower of a major airport – something where you can drop intimate knowledge about a place most people never see.
  7. Mood & Tone – How do you want your novel to come across? Dark? Mysterious? Never-ending action? This must be matched by mood and tone.
  8. Suspense – The old promise and delay. But you have to be careful with this. Don’t over do it. Don’t stretch it out too long. But dangle just enough to keep someone in jeopardy, even if it’s internal to them, so that your reader wants to get them out.
  9. Big Novel – A finality needs to be big and/or satisfying. It should end the same ways it starts. If it starts with violence, it should end with a big, violent scene. Don’t go out on a wimper.

Yeah, so my notes could be better. Typically ThrillerFest will sell the audio copies of these great classes. I did not purchase them when I was there, but will certainly do so once they’re available on line. And I will most certainly share the link.

I bought and now have a signed copy of her latest work The Assassins. Can’t wait to get into it.

One more goodie.

This is really fun. Gayle has a page on her website that tests your knowledge of spy terms. It’s a list of 10 questions using nomenclature that you may or may not know. But try it. You’ll probably learn something new.
Test your Spy-Q.

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