About 10 years ago, lawyer-turned-novelist John Grisham spilled the beans in Newsweek that a 1973 Writer’s Digest article paved the way for him to write his bestseller The Firm.
Naturally, we’ve been geeking out about this since we first heard it, and see it referenced every so often in relation to Grisham books, but I’d never actually read the piece. So I dug it up today—it’s by author Brian Garfield, and was originally titled “10 Rules for Suspense Fiction.”
In case the next Grisham is out there reading this, I’ll include Garfield’s 10 points below, and will also link to the full article (which is reproduced over at the International Thriller Writers website).
The 10 Commandments of How to Write a Thriller
- Start with action; explain it later.
- Make it tough for your protagonist.
- Plant it early; pay it off later.
- Give the protagonist the initiative.
- Give the protagonist a personal stake.
- Give the protagonist a tight time limit, and then shorten it.
- Choose your character according to your own capacities, as well as his.
- Know your destination before you set out.
- Don’t rush in where angels fear to tread.
- Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want to read.
For the full piece, “10 Rules for Suspense Fiction” by Brian Garfield, click here.
Zachary Petit is an award-winning journalist, the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine, and the co-author of A Year of Writing Prompts: 366 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block.
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