- Slaying Dragons. Your protagonist must face the bad guy. I recently read a suspense/thriller where the protagonist was rescued from the villain. That’s a weak resolution, and I threw the book across the room. The protagonist must defeat his/her own dragons.
- Hero. Your protagonist must be a hero, not just someone that gets beat up. Add the first two ideas together and you’ll find the bones of a great story. The reverse: defeated protagonist who has to be rescued is an unsatisfying novel.
- Action. If something doesn’t move the story forward, delete it or rewrite it so it does. You can’t stop and smell the roses in a novel—you’ll lose your readers. Descriptions, backstory, setting and so on must always be propelling the novel forward.
- Proactive. You really want the protagonist to figure out who the villain is, not wait for the villain to reveal himself. Your protagonist needs to be proactive.
- Elastic mind. The first book I labored over for six plus years had originally had a murder in the third chapter. Frank said to have the murder in the first chapter. What? I had no idea how to do this. I worked and worked, finally moving the body to chapter two. Nope. Frank wanted it in chapter one, preferably on page one. Be elastic in your thinking about your story.
- Nothing in stone. Frank didn’t teach me this by telling, but by showing (a little writer’s humor…okay, so very little humor.) Print out your working novel on recycled paper. I remember he gave me something in writing that was printed out on the back of one of his stories. OOOoooooohhh! Aren’t his words written in stone and sacred? Nope. Anything you write can be re-written. There are other, and probably better ways to say something. This is an application of tip five-elastic thinking.
In a thrilling race against time, When Death Draws Near plunges us into cold-case murders, shady politics, and a den of venomous suspects.