11.30: Elemental Thriller Q&A

We fielded the following questions about the “Thriller” elemental genre from listeners on Facebook and Twitter:

  • How do I build tension consistently through my story?
  • How do you maintain tension during dialog?
  • When do you not use a cliffhanger?
  • Do you ever picture your scenes as if they were in a movie?
  • How much elemental thriller is too much for a book that isn’t a thriller? What’s the tipping point where you’ve switched genres?
  • What do you do when the tension in your story peaks too early?

Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 


Sit down with your manuscript or outline, and in the margins, add notes about the emotions you’re trying to evoke with each scene, and where in the scene it’s supposed to happen. This list of notes is your “beat chart,” and it’s going to teach you neat things about your story.

Javelin Rain, by Myke Cole, narrated by Korey Jackson

4 thoughts on “11.30: Elemental Thriller Q&A”

  1. Another fun episode. Howard’s exercise at the end sounds like a fascinating thing to do… I agree that I’m not sure what I’d learn by doing it, but I’m sure I’d learn something.

    It sort of reminds me of the Vonnegut theory about story shapes. There’s a video you can watch. Vonnegut’s theory is a bit simpler, just positive/negative empotional arcs rather than exact emotions… but it feels similar still: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP3c1h8v2ZQ

    Also, the Hedonometer people have used Vonnegut’s idea as a basis for examining ‘shapes’ of classic novels. Interesting stuff, and seems sort of related: http://hedonometer.org/books/v1/


  2. The good, the bad, the tension, the cliffhangers, the payoffs, the movies… when you make stone soup, don’t forget to add the salt! Plenty of stakes, a few beats here and there, and see if your story is thrilling!

    Now, you had questions, and the foursome have answers. Read all of it in the transcript, available in the archive or over here:


    And remember, you can always fix it in revision.

  3. Okay, so I have never been the largest fan of thrillers. In general, they call to mind this image of inflated stakes to distract from underwhelming character motivation. I want to change this since I don’t like the idea of grouping an entire genre under one feeling.

    My question is: What thriller novel (preferably not a series) would you recommend to me to try and re-introduce the thriller genre?

    Any and all suggestions will be very appreciated. Thanks!

Comments are closed.