How to Write a Chiller Thriller sounds like something like a Stephen King or Hitchcock or Poe how-to guide for writers. However, it is much more contemporary and more example based than a standard concocted formula for authors of this genre.

I have not read fictional work of Sally Spedding but reading through this book which I would much rather call an enjoyable guidebook, her candid fails and successes do more than hook. After a couple of pages, I actually had to stop and get a pen and diary to note down points! She starts with her twelve commandments, starting from the first; Actions first, explanations later to how the protagonist is portrayed to the plot and relationship between the writing and the writer.

Spedding’s guide is kinesthetic. She includes not just paragraphs or pages but chapters of her own work and some of others. She includes many references of authors and their works… so many that I have listed them to be over 65 ( it’s taken up 4 sides of my journal). She mentions Mark Z Danielewski’s House of Leaves repeatedly and reverently as her go-to book for inspiration in the genre (This is definitely making it to my reading list of this year). Moreover, she includes tasks with each chapter for the reader to attempt and questions, lists of ideas and activities.

I don’t want to summarise the book here but to give a preview, the book sequentially deals with the treatment of characters, psychology, layering, plot structures and many more. The chapters on point of view and examples of how shifting point of view from first to third person, from limited to omniscient changes the “feel” of the book. She encourages the reader/ author to experiment and scout around to find their voice. She gives practical advice like limiting chapters to 20 pages and why she thinks that should be so, how to build tension, keeping a balance between under-doing and overdoing suspense, avoiding putting in coincidences and cliches, and how to properly address prologues and epilogues.

Endings, titles and synopses are key to the success of any book and Spedding doesn’t shy away from what she thinks. There are things she says that work and things that an author should shy away from at all costs. There are also specific instructions on how one should edit their work (this reminded me of the rubrics and instructions that I used to give my students- a first aid kit for writing).

Sometimes I like to copy word for word lines from a book for inspiration or to come back to. Below are some that I extracted from this book.

  1. ‘But it’s all been done,’ you might complain. Not true. The key is passion. Your passion.
  2. Like people. even the most beautiful landscape or building can hide a dark side; be deadly dangerous.
  3. Rejoice in the best, but remember the worst so you won’t make the same mistakes.
  4. … setting can often be a novel’s’ main character_ for better or worse_ even shaping its human characters’ psyches. If the setting is right, your characters will be in the right place.

What I really like about this book is that it is not vague. I have read books on writing that beat about the bush before finally getting to some point or the other, or depend on the reader’s inference rather than stating clearly the things that are truly helpful. Spedding is concise. She is blunt. She is clear. And she is encouraging.

To get this book from Amazon, click: How to Write a Chiller Thriller