Monday, October 06, 2014

Where Thrillers Come From

You've read GONE GIRL and you wonder where an author could get an idea like the plot of that book. A woman goes missing and it's presumed to be murder but it's something quite different. Where does that kind of inspiration come from?

Here's a writing prompt to help you get started on your own thriller. The ending is not written. Neither is the solution to the question of who did what to whom. That's your task as an author.

It's the cops task as law enforcement, but they can't make it up as they go along. Yes, this is a real case.

Start with a man. An ordinary man, the sort of person you'd pass on the street and not notice.

He's not satisfied with his life. Maybe he's bored to death, living in some non-descript corner of Chicago's south side. Maybe there's no work and he's ready to move on.

He will be a White Sox fan. You want that touch of authenticity to your story, to create a setting without going into a lot of dry detail about the location of his home. Do the showing instead of the telling.

He goes to Las Vegas to make a new start. He loses contact with his family. There could be squabbles or bad blood going back years. It's whatever you want it to be, but you need a little mystery to his past to make a thriller work. Bit by bit, as you write the story, you reveal the cause of the rift. That's what keeps the pages turning.

So he's in Vegas and he meets a woman. That happens all the time. They get married. That's a common enough occurrence. The next thing anyone knows she's back at her home in small-town Indiana. No one knows if her husband is with her.

That's the opening. Once you have the reader hooked on the mystery of why this man left his home and cut off contact, and what became of him post-Vegas, you charge straight into the core of the mystery driving the narrative.

The man's sister calls police because she hasn't heard from her brother since he took off for Vegas, except to let her know he was marrying this lady from Indiana. When she goes to this woman's house, she is denied entry. Her new sister-in-law won't even speak to her.

A few days later, a friend of the wife call to say they haven't heard from her and they're worried, can the cops check on her? Oh, and her mother's been visiting so it's all a bit odd that no one answers the phone.

When the police arrive, they find the wife dying from a stroke. She's rushed to the hospital but she's gone before the cops can question her.

Her mother is nowhere to be seen, even though her clothes are there and her medicine is there and her car is there.

The husband? Not a trace.

The police in Fowler, Indiana, are working on this case and they don't have a clue as to where Milan Lekich or his mother-in-law Nena Metoyer have gone. They are asking the public for help in locating the two, who could be alive. Or they could be dead.

Gone Girl? Gone Boy and Gone Mother.

Now sit down and write.

No comments: