The Key to Thrilling Readers

When it comes down to it, how do action scenes actually thrill, and how do they keep readers hooked?
Author:
Publish date:

In a scene from one of author Ted Dekker’s novels, a man gets a chicken out of the freezer—and then beats someone to death with it. It’s a wild image, and a strange, captivating scene.

But when it comes down to it, how do scenes like this actually thrill, and how do they keep readers hooked? Is it because it’s action? Is it because of the violence?

No. And this is something that kept coming up in various panels and sessions at ThrillerFest: When it boils down to it, it’s all about the character, and the emotion.

In the case of the chicken incident: Who is this guy?Why did he do it?

If characters aren’t brought to life through solid development and the other key ingredients that span all forms of writing, the action will mean nothing—even in thrillers, a genre that often features a surplus of action.

“Action bores me, so I search for the deeper meaning behind the action,” Dekker said in Jon Land’s panel “How Do You Amp Up the Action Without Losing All Credibility?” “I want to be moved.”

It’s key to consider the why. Why is someone running for their life? Why does this spy care so much about saving this one person? Dekker said the reader has to identify with a challenge they find in themselves.

Author Lisa Jackson said imbuing each character with a motivation for their actions is the most difficult part of her writing. After all, she said, anyone can write about someone doing something wild. It’s the emotional resonance that brings everything to life.

plot_twist_story_prompts_without_a_trace_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Without a Trace

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character leave without a trace.

WDVintage_10_29

Vintage WD: The Truth about True Crime

In this article from July 2000, true crime novelist and former New York Times correspondent Lisa Beth Pulitzer shares with us some key insights for breaking into the true crime genre.

new_agent_alert_barb_roose_books_such_literary_services_adult_christian_fiction_and_nonfiction

New Agent Alert: Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

Grinnell_10:28

Evoking Emotion in Fiction: Seven Pragmatic Ways to Make Readers Give a Damn

Evoking emotion on the page begins with the man or woman at the keyboard. Dustin Grinnell serves up seven straightforward tactics for writing tear-jerking stories that make your readers empathize with your characters.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 546

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a spooky poem.

Richard_Shadowlands

Learn Better World-Building Strategies Through World of Warcraft and the New Shadowlands Expansion

WD editor and fantasy writer Moriah Richard shares five unique ways in which writers can use World of Warcraft to better build their worlds—without playing the game.

Hall_10:27

Seven Tips for Intuitive Writing: The Heart-Hand Connection

Award-winning author Jill G. Hall shares her top tips for how to dive into your latest project head-first.

bearing_vs_baring_vs_barring_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Bearing vs. Baring vs. Barring (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use bearing vs. baring vs. barring on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.