The Thriller Formula

The Thriller Formula

There’s a formula?

Readers and critics often dismiss a writer for having a formula that is too obvious and makes the writing predictable and boring. It doesn’t matter if it’s the crime thrillers of James Patterson, the legal thrillers of John Grisham, or the action thrillers of Lee Child, who all consistently write best-sellers. They keep their publishers, booksellers and fans very happy, if not the critics.

The criticism seems a feeble complaint, often by jealous writers and reviewers who haven’t been as successful themselves, if you define success as having sold millions of books to enthusiastic readers around the world. If you’re looking for critically acclaimed great literature, then you should probably not be reading mystery and suspense thrillers. If you’re a fan of that genre, don’t spoil the fun by looking for the formula.

If you’re a writer find your own formula. I’m still working on it. After studying the techniques of other writers and reading their books of advice on writing thrillers, mystery and suspense, I haven’t found the magic formula that consistently leads to a best-selling novel, but I am developing my own formula: write well, tell a good story with appealing characters, and make it interesting, entertaining, informative, even inspirational, for the reader. Deliver the pleasure of an engaging read and as David Baldacci says, “Make readers feel a little smarter because they learned something.”

There are a lot of other theories and formulas, with associated systems and processes, crafting and calculating, that go into writing a good book. Most writers are still looking for the secret formula; the hunt continues. And readers have the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of creative approaches to thrillers written by many talented, hard-working writers.

We may never discover the ultimate formula for success however you define it, but in reading the best thriller writers and their books of advice on writing there are some universal themes:

  • Keep the plot moving.
  • Respect the reader.
  • Graphic scenes of sex and violence are not necessary.
  • Get the facts right in one paragraph, not three.
  • Take out the parts that the reader will skip anyway.
  • Use more dialogue, less description.

Most important, open your mind to the possibilities and let the magic happen.

And in other news …

I’m on the writers roster at Mystery & Suspense Magazine! It’s an honour and a pleasure to be part of the team for articles, reviews, and … maybe a short story.

Check out the inside stories about crime fiction and the writers at: and see some of my articles at:

I’m also currently working hard to find an agent and publisher to get my books into the mainstream through traditional channels to more readers around the globe. Apparently a few thousand enthusiastic readers in fifteen different countries is not enough to impress anybody.

So I’m looking for new friends, fans and readers to rave about the books and recommend them to others. Please add your reviews, comments and recommendations to Goodreads, Amazon, or share them on my website and social media channels. For your reference, see: Reviews & Media Coverage.

Thank you for your continued support and encouragement!

Enjoy your reading,


Del Chatterson

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