How to Write a Psychological Thriller by Heidi Perks

After completing a CBC (Curtis Brown Creative literary agency) online novel-writing course in 2013, Heidi Perks self-published her debut story Beneath the Surface. Her second psychological thriller Now You See Her was impressively bought by Century in a major deal.


It is no wonder that we wanted to share her valuable lessons, which she has learned in the process of writing psychological thrillers.

Choose a situation that resonates with the reader

For an effective thriller, it is important to set the scene that is similar to “that could happen to me” situation. In order to engage the readers, you need to make their hearts start racing. This is possible if the reader relates himself to what is going on with the characters. Do not choose abstract or too unusual situations. Be observant, look around yourself in your everyday life and you will find many different interesting occasions, which you could incorporate into your story.


Figure out what element you want to be discussed by your audience

If you want your piece of writing to stand out from the crowd, choose a controversial issue, which will evoke discussion amongst your readers. This does not have to be the main idea of your story but it should make your readers stop and question whether what they believe in is really a proper way of behaving in the society. Adding a conflict into the storyline can divide opinions and will surely create some buzz and dynamics.

Leave the trail of breadcrumbs

Everyone knows that a proper psychological thriller must have a twist. Moreover, a very good thriller will please its readers with multiple unexpected turns of events. For an effective suspense, you need to make sure that your reader changes his mind as the story rolls on and the conflict heads to its resolution. However, for an effective culmination, you need to leave little hints on what is going to happen along the road. These hints should not be obvious but when the reader sees the resolution of the story, he needs to realize why all the little clues were included in the plot.

Incorporate effective nail-biting scenes

We are writing a psychological thriller, right? Make sure that you do not concentrate too much on building structure and creating characters. Instead, put all your efforts into creating effective nail-biting moments. The poignant scenes are usually the parts of the story, which attract readers who love thrillers.


Create believable characters

The characters must feel real and a reader should somehow relate to what happens to them. Be consistent in creating the personalities in your story and give them flaws. Make them become alive so that the reader could really feel what the people in your story are going through. The setting must be familiar and the heroes also need to be related to the reader. The protagonist needs to be ordinary and believable so superheroes are not the best choice for the main character. You might change characters in the process and swap villain for a hero but make sure that each one of your characters is earning his or her place.

Writing a psychological thriller is exciting, however, not every writer can create a truly memorable piece of writing. If your reader confesses that he had the goosebumps, you may confidently say that your mission of writing a powerful psychological thriller is indeed completed.