Wednesday, 12 February 2020

5 Tips for Writing a Psychological Thriller - Guest Post Jenny Quintana

Ever wondered what it would be like to write a psychological thriller? Today, as part of my 'Psychological Thriller Author' series, author Jenny Quintana gives us her five tips to ensure you do it right. Jenny's second thriller 'Our Dark Secret' was published in February by Mantle. Can't wait to read it!

Five Tips For Writing A Psychological Thriller


One of the most important things to consider when writing any novel is your characters, and it is most definitely true when writing a psychological thriller. This is because a lot of the suspense takes place inside the character’s head, so it is crucial to understand their emotions. It is also important that the reader cares about the characters. If they don’t engage with them they won’t be bothered about their plight and they won’t be interested in their story.


Knowing when to speed things up and slow things down is an important skill. There are a few rules that can help with this. For example, avoid giving the reader too much backstory right at the beginning of the novel as this can become boring. A line or two is sufficient. The rest can be drip fed through the story. Description is important, but don’t clog the action up with paragraphs and paragraphs of beautiful, flowery writing. A few lines and then the reader wants to know what is going on. Make sure you don’t repeat information either. Readers like to work things out for themselves or flick back through the book to check things.

Language and Style

Vary your style. Use short, punchy sentences when something speedy is happening and then longer sentences to step back from the action. Use different sentence constructions and a variety of verbs. Spend a long time editing, getting rid of superfluous words that slow things down. Do a search on words like very, pretty, such and so and get rid of them where possible. Watch out for repeated words – we all have our favourites.


Put your characters into difficult situations. This doesn’t mean they have to be embroiled in fights or dangerous events all the time. Conflict can occur because of all kinds of situation, from getting lost in a strange place, to arguing with or misunderstanding another character, to a feeling of being watched or followed. Make sure your characters suffer. If the reader truly identifies with them (see above!) they will suffer and sympathise along with them. 


Some writers plan their novels meticulously. I’m not one of those people. I start with my characters and I get to know them before I consider what their story is. I usually know the beginning and the end. Then I fill in the gaps as I go. When I finish a draft, I go back over the book time and again, planting subtle clues. It’s important that when a reader finishes a book that they are able to recall these clues. If they want to reread and pinpoint these moments, then the writer has done their job!

Jenny Quintana is the author of the psychological mystery The Missing Girl which was chosen as a Waterstones thriller of the month in 2018. Her second novel Our Dark Secret was published in February 2020. She has taught in London, Seville and Athens and now lives in Berkshire with her husband, three children and two dogs.

You can buy Our Dark Secret here:

You can buy The Missing Girl here:

Follow Jenny here: Twitter: @jennyquintana95

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