Monday will be two weeks since I published Credible Threat, book #2 in the Blake Jordan series. That means it’s back to business and time to buckle down and start writing book #3.
One thing I like to do when writing a new thriller is to read about the craft of storytelling. I want my readers to get the best experience possible with each new book. And because I want to improve.
While writing Blake Jordan #1, I read How to Write a Damn Good Thriller by James Frey. It helped me understand the best way to structure a thriller so it would be, well, thrilling.
While writing #2, I read The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne (and listened to about 50 of his corresponding podcasts on my daily walks). It taught me how to write more compelling scenes.
On Monday, I’ll start writing #3, and the book I’m reading right now is Story by Robert McKee. McKee’s students have gone on to write Toy Story, Friends, Batman Forever, Beauty and the Beast, Seinfeld, Forrest Gump — I’ll just stop right there, but the list goes on and on (and on).
With any kind of self-improvement, they say if you try to change too much too soon, it’ll never work. So with each book, I try to not only learn to be better, but I also try to focus on just one thing I can work on to improve. With book #1, it was how to create twists; to zig when they expect you to zag.
With #2, I focused on improving my pacing, on writing the right thing at the right time, according to story structure; to hold back on the action until the characters were introduced so we could care about them first before really bad things started happening to them (that was really hard for me!).
With book #3, I’ve decided to focus on creating a better villain for my hero, Blake Jordan.
Because what I’ve started to realize from reading McKee’s Story is that a hero is only compelling to the level of there being an equally compelling (and even more powerful) villain. I’m not sure how I’m going to pull that off just yet, but I’m up for the challenge. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- Character is revealed through choices made under pressure and the villain must pressure the hero into more and more difficult choices, ultimately revealing the hero’s true character.
- The choices the hero makes reveal not only who he is but also what he cares about.
- The villain will use that information to learn the hero’s weakness and will exploit it to attack the hero where it hurts him the most — that’s what makes the villain so powerful.
- This makes the hero grow wiser and deepens his resolve to find a way to defeat the villain.
- The hero and villain must compete for the same goal. In The Dark Knight, Batman and The Joker both compete for the same thing, the soul of Gotham. In a way, they are two sides of the same coin. Only when the hero and villain want the same thing do they become destined to battle.
I’m looking forward to sitting down with a coffee on Monday morning and creating the best villain I can come up with for Blake Jordan #3 to see where life takes my story’s hero. Challenge accepted.