Writing a Psychological Thriller - Authors A.I.

Alessandra Torre
May 28, 2021

Psychological Thrillers are blowing up the bestseller lists with books like Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, The Silent Patient and You. With this surge in interest and sales, authors are jumping into the pool to create their own tense and provocative stories. But what classifies a book as a Psychological Thriller, and how can we write a novel that will please and intrigue that reader base?

Personally, I love writing in this genre. My latest novel, Every Last Secret straddles the line between domestic suspense and Psychological Thriller. Prior to that, I published The Ghostwriter, which fit solidly into the Psychological Thriller space. While I felt comfortable penning these tales, I wanted to know more about the genre. I stole an opportunity to talk shop with a recent entrant into the genre – bestselling author Andy Maslen – who I invited onto the most recent First Draft Friday chat. We spent a half hour talking about Psychological Thrillers and answering viewer questions. I think you’ll enjoy the show… *insert dramatic pause*

We ran out of time, which is why Andy will return to the First Draft Friday stage to continue the conversation. As you can see, we covered some fantastic ground during the chat.

Andy shared his “ingredients” for a Psychological Thriller. They include:

  • An element of psychology. In a Psychological Thriller, you want to dive into the feelings and motivations of your characters. It’s not so much what they do or what they’re saying – it’s more about how they’re feeling and what is going on in their head. For this reason, a lot of Psychological Thrillers are written in first person, though that isn’t a requirement.
  • The disordered mind. With this, the protagonist and possibly the antagonists have a sort of perception distortion, either of their own making or someone else’s. A strong example of this is the unreliable narrator in The Girl on a Train (due to her alcohol use) or the misperception of The Woman in the Window (due to a psychological disorder).
  • Secrets. Typically, in a Psychological Thriller secrets are being kept from others or from the audience. The main character will have a big dark secret that they don’t want anyone to know, one that is being slowly unveiled to the reader as the story progresses.
  • A domestic setting. While this isn’t a requirement, most Psychological Thrillers are happening to everyday people in normal situations. These are not super spies or billionaires or brilliant scientists with psychic abilities. These are characters that could easily be the housewife next door or someone very much like you, the reader.

We didn’t finish Andy’s list – so please stay tuned for our next blog post, where I’ll complete his list of ingredients and we’ll discuss more about unpredictable emotions, unstable characters, and undermining perceptions.

Want to read some of Andy’s favorites? Check out his list of top Psychological Thriller books.

If you’d like to see more First Draft Friday chats, subscribe to our YouTube channel or listen to the podcast.

Transcript of our talk with Andy Maslen

Here is the full transcript from our chat:

Alessandra: I’m Alessandra Torre. I’m here today with Andy Maslen and we’re going to be talking all about Psychological Thrillers. So if you are interested in writing Psychological Thrillers, or if you a thriller or mystery author in general, or any author, please stick around because this is going to be an interesting half hour and we have a lot to chat about. So Andy, this is not your first time on First Draft Friday, but in case they didn’t see your other appearanc; do you want to just introduce yourself and tell them a little bit about you?

Andy: Sure, no problem. Hi, Alessandra and thanks for having me again. Hi everyone, my name’s Andy Maslen. I’m based in England in the city of Salisbury. I’ve been writing novels for six years now, two and a half full-time. My sort of the first genre that I was writing in was, I guess you call it vigilante fiction. Then I moved into crime fiction, sort of what we call police procedurals. Mostly self-published, but I had three book deal with Thomas Mercer, and Alli you publish with them as well. Earlier this year, or I guess maybe late last year I was fancying a change and I thought, you know, I love Psychological Thrillers, I’ve always been interested in psychology, maybe this is a shift that I can make.

Alessandra: This is a genre or sub-genre that has really exploded in the last couple of years. So a lot of what we’re seeing now on bestseller charts is psychological suspense, Psychological Thriller, and it’s interesting the difference between the two because it’s almost a little foray into psychological fiction women’s fiction a lot of times, they can be very closely matched. So when you made this change, did you read a lot of Psychological Thrillers or how did you make that jump, successfully?

Andy: Okay. I think I’d read some of the big ones that a lot of people have read, so Gone Girl, Girl on a Train…

Alessandra: Silent Patient, I think would be considered.

Andy: You know, you raised an interesting point right there that, you know, with psychological fiction, psychological suspense, you know, it is shaded into, I think both the huge, I mean, it’s hardly a genre, but you know, women’s fiction, things that women are particularly interested in, in real life too. So relationships and just things that there’s not necessarily pops and bangs as we call them, but there’s a lot of action. But then I thought, well, if I’m going to write one, I really need to understand what you might call the genre conventions, you know, what are the ingredients? What are the magic ingredients? Because I know, you know, with crime, I know with action, your military-based fiction I know what to do. I wasn’t so sure exactly., and I want to hit those buttons. I think if you’re a commercially minded author, which I am, you know, you don’t want to disappoint your reader. So I read a ton of Psychological Thrillers just to kind of get a feel for what was going on.

Alessandra: So what are those genre conventions that you discovered? What do you think is necessary? Because it’s interesting, I mean, with action, there’s always dead bodies, right, car chase and things like that. But what are the primary components that you would say from a… I’ll be very interested to see what you say because I don’t have an easy answer for this.

Andy: So I put together partly from research and my sort of feelings, if we have time, but I’ve got a list of sort of seven ingredients. I wouldn’t say that every Psychological Thriller has to have all seven. And we were just talking before we went live about recording studios and you can see some like guitars in the background. I think that one of these fictional things, it’s really useful to think about, and I do this when I’m teaching as well, is the idea of those recording the sliders that you don’t have a row of on off switches – one, zero; one, zero; suspend, not suspend; car chase, not car chase. It’s more like if it’s an action thriller, I’m going to start trying to get my thumb into the camera. There we go… pushing out the sliders for things like physical violence, action, cars going off cliffs and bursting into flames, people chasing down dark alleyways. That doesn’t sound to me like Psychological Thrillers, so I might pull those sliders down. So the first one that I’m going to push up is the obvious one is in the title psychology.

So a lot of what is revealed about people is not so much what they do or what they’re toting as what they say with how much we can trust what they say and what they’re feeling. So we have a lot of the kind of free indirect star, the very close up third person or first person, point of view. So it’s about someone’s personality and their relationships. And obviously in action thrillers, people have relationships, but they’re not foregrounded, and I think that’s the difference, they’re not foregrounded. In the psych thrillers, it’s all about the relationships. I would say the second, well, so talking about psychology, the other thing that kind of classic thing is the disordered mind; the protagonist and possibly the antagonists have entered a sort of perception distortion field, either of their own making or someone else’s. So their perception of reality either because they have a mental health disorder or because they’ve been gaslighted or whatever it is, but they don’t know what’s going on. And because we’re so close to them in the sort of reader character relationship, we’re not sure what’s going on either.

Alessandra: And that really brings up the narrator that you can’t trust.

Andy: The unreliable narrator.

Alessandra: And I’m trying to think the book that really broke this out, but this is a common element that you’ll see in psychological. The reader is reading and all they know is what the narrator is telling them, but they don’t know whether they can trust what that narrator is saying. But then oftentimes, sometimes the narrator is lying, but sometimes the narrator thinks a truth that isn’t accurate because like you said, mental disorder, alcoholism. I guess Girl On The Train was one of the big buck stop.

Andy: You know, when I read Gone Girl, what I found was so fascinating about that is, I think like a lot of us, I read books with to, you know, I can read and enjoy. So like I’m thinking everything else that’s going on and I thought, “God, this guy is a complete shit.” Excuse my French. You know, he’s terrible, man. And I think that because the first half is from her perspective, I can’t remember, but anyway, part one, and then part two… part one is him and you think, “God, this one is a bitch.” You know, poor guy. You know, and then you get her part you say, “Oh my God, you got it completely around the wrong way.” And then I guess people watching this are used to the idea there’s spoiler alerts, but spoiler alert, both about as bad as each other.

Alessandra: That book also did well, and this kind of was your first point. And if I’m skipping ahead to some of your seven, I apologize, but secrets are also a really big part of… and one thing I use when I write Psychological Thrillers, a lot of times is my narrator has a secret, but the secret is not what the reader thinks the secret is, you know? So in Gone Girl, you could tell the husband was hiding something and that made you think, “Okay, he killed his wife.” But he had a different secret, and that was why he was lying to police, and that was why he was being sketchy and all of these different things. So that’s a tool that I use a lot is the characters have a secret, but the reader doesn’t know what it is or the reader thinks they know what it is and then it’s something else.

Andy: Actually that wasn’t my list or not explicitly. I think it comes into that thing, the unreliable narrator in a way, which we’ve just been talking about that. And I love this, you know, up to now all my lead characters being truthful narrators; they’re the kind of heroic figure, you know, they don’t lie, they tell the truth. The challenges they face are much more physical. They’re not metaphysical, but not to do with whether people are lying to them or whether their perceptions are ski with, you know, there’s 30 warlords coming towards them in pickup trucks, with heavy machine guns, bolted to the roof. Now, that’s enough. You don’t need worry about seeing when that’s going on, there’s kind of ammunition coming in. And it’s great fun to write. 

Up to now, all my books have been in the third person. So my thriller is called You’re Always With Me, and it’s about a woman who has just had a baby and the baby doesn’t sleep at all, really, and she’s just losing her mind. And the opening line is something like, “I look back fondly on the agony of childbirth. It’s the last time I felt truly alive.” And you think, “Okay, what’s going on?” And she’s got postnatal depression and it deepens into postpartum psychosis. And I actually built the first sort of, I don’t know, fifth of the book on her lying to us, but she thinks she’s telling the truth. She’s completely convinced. And then, well, I’ve had enough of that, it’s not that house of cards down and reveal what’s really going on. But then that isn’t really going on either. It’s just another house of cards or a hall of mirrors, you know, whatever metaphor you want to use. And then we switched to her husband who is long-suffering, and he’s put up with this crazy woman, and she’s drowned the baby at sea. She’s actually killed infanticide and he found her or did he. And you keep going and flipping around. 

So the second, which kind of we are kind of looping back on ourselves. But the other thing that is kind of fun is that it seems to me it’s a domestic setting. We’re talking about the home, a school run… look at Big Little Lies, you know, it’s a sort of school moms or it’s a workplace or a call center or a scout troop, or a friendship group. It’s not a nuclear dump or Chechnyan civil war or Moscow Mafia; this is just everyday life. The kind of mantra I came up with is that for the protagonist is that they’re thinking, “You know, I’m just a normal person. Why is this happening to me?” And I think that is what’s so scary. If you get it right, what is so frightening about these thrillers and so creepy is nobody really thinks, “What if I wake up at three o’clock in the morning and there’s a vampire about to kind of, you know?” It’s a pleasurable thrill if you watch a vampire movie, but you never think that’s going to happen to you. 

But what if you woke up tomorrow morning and you couldn’t remember who you were and a man gets into bed with and says, hi darling? And you’re like, “Who the hell is he?” That’s truly terrible. You ever read a memoir of anyone who’s lost their memory after an accident or stroke; it is absolutely truly frightening. And there’s a book now I forgot the author, which is bad of me, but before I go to sleep which is where every time a woman wakes up, it sort of resets her memories. So it’s not quite that Groundhog Day because she actually doesn’t remember yesterday. She doesn’t go “Today’s the same as yesterday.” It’s almost like being born every day and she gradually stops piecing her life together. 

So yeah, so we have this kind of domestic setting and one of the sort of titled trope or a way of coming with plots, I think, which is there is something from hell, you know, the neighbors from hell, the best friend from hell, the wife, the boyfriend from hell, the brother-in-law from hell, the kids from hell, and it’s just that sort of… If it was Stephen King, it would be the nine foot spider from hell or the alien vampire from hell, but in Psychological Thrillers, it’s like the nice little old lady next door who only wants to help with a few little chores from hell. You just take someone really nice and you totally screw up their life, which is I think great fun, actually. I mean, if you’re kind of personalized torturing nice people. Where are we got domestic, we’ve got unreliable narrator where we’ve got people lying all the time. The other thing is a really interesting one. I’m going to go at my own secrets here is some poor choices. People making bad choices, bad decision. I think you want your reader to be going, ‘Oh no, don’t do that.” But let’s say you… and I’ve read literary fiction. There’s one called “A Simple Plan” where a guy finds a suitcase full of money near a crashed plane. I mean, we’ve all had that fantasy. I think in the sense of what the rational, the honest and ethical thing to do.

Alessandra: But at the same time you can see the temptations, and that’s challenges for us. We have to make it, and especially with the psychological book, make the reader understand why that character took that wrong path.

Andy: Exactly. Even at that… and you just keep having to make more and more bad decisions or everyone’s doing it – there’s a cop who hides evidence. I don’t know if you’re watching Mayor of East Town at the moment.

Alessandra: No.

Andy: Kate Windsor. Fantastic. She’s a cop, she makes a terrible choice, sorry again, spoiler alert, but it’s only the third episode. There’s a custody battle. I mean, in a way, this is kind of got psychological elements. There’s a custody battle and she plants drugs on the birth mother of her grandson to try and get her into trouble. And of course, it immediately backfires; this didn’t even takes 24 hours. And you think, “Oh God, why did you do it?” But you know why she did because she loves the child and she thinks the birth mother is unfair. People tend to like hide their crimes, run away, keep evidence from the police, keep going back to the abusive husband or the controlling whoever, because people do that. I mean, you don’t have to pick up a newspaper or read the news online to see that. You know, why people do these things, you know, stupid idiotic decisions sometimes for good reasons.

Alessandra: Yeah. And timing is often; a split second decision is oftentimes not the right decision, but then you’re married to that decision and its consequences.

Andy: I mean, I have my sort of the husband character in this book I’m writing. He takes the baby Harry to the park. There’s a kind of a deer park and he’s just reading the paper on his phone, reading the financial times and a woman, another mum, or a mum says, you know, engaged in conversation. And he says, “Oh, you know, your wife’s very lucky to have you such a good father.” And he just looks at her and he says, “Actually she died.” I don’t know why I said that. Just a split second thing. And if I’d have only said the truth or you say, actually, do you know what? I don’t know why I said that, she just had a difficult birth. I had no sleep; it would all have gone differently.

Alessandra: Sometimes that happen, sometimes you just randomly lie and you don’t even know why you did it and the minute you did it, you’re like, that was dumb. And now I have to regret that I’m going to run into this first again and what do I do?

Andy: Yeah. So I love that kind of thing of, you know, just bad choices that you then follow through on. Rather than backing away…

Alessandra: You double down.

Andy: Exactly. Tragic, but you know, the funeral was nice, and I always tell Harry about his mom and you know, this, that, and the other, who’s alive and well, you know, but somewhere else in the book. The other thing, I mean, this is the big one, but again, it’s not specific to Psychological Thrillers, I think, but it is that kind of the kind of mixing this thing is twists. You know, you want it to be, I mean, I think all thrillers need to be twisty, but with Psychological Thrillers, I kind of pinned it down to maybe three different kinds of twists. There’s a kind of a reality twist, which is in a sense they’re all to do with the unreliable narrator maybe, but I love thrillers on TV. When I’m searching something to watch on Netflix, I’m always looking thrillers. And there were a couple in particular I think that play the reality twist really well, one is the Sixth Sense, which in that movie… spoiler alert, there’s a massive risk at the end of the Sixth Sense and it’s all about reality, so there’s a big one.

Alessandra: One person’s reality versus… and I guess it was technically an unreliable narrator. The reality that you thought the entire movie is wrong.

Andy: And another one will be The Village by M. Night Shyamalan; have you’ve seen that?

Alessandra: I haven’t.

Andy: Okay, so it’s a medieval village. I’m not going to spoil it. It’s a medieval village, but you know what you can say with all Psychological Thriller. It’s a medieval village or is it, you know, he’s that really loving husband or is he? Like as a blurb writer, you know my former career is a copywriter, you know, in terms of writing a hook or a logline for a movie, or is he is a bit like something from hell. She’s a really successful advertising well with everything, or is she? Yeah, and that’s all you have to say.

Andy: So that’s reality, let’s mess around with reality. Well, what about identity? So in Star Wars, I am going to do a spoiler, if anyone hasn’t see Star Wars, that’s kind of your bad; you should have seen that a long time ago. The line I’m thinking of is Darth Vader saying, “Luke, I am your father.” I was, “What?” That’s a big psychological twist, in terms of the father son identity is sort of oedipal conflict, right? So the ancient Greek, Sophocles, whoever, you know, he’s in a deadly baffled with his own father. Or in the usual suspects, I won’t say any of that. I think maybe that’s a bit more recent, but you know, there’s this guy being interviewed by the cops spinning this amazing yarn about this Turkish gang, and there’s a fantastic play on identity in that movie. And then the classic one is what I think is guilt. You’re playing with guilt. Who’s really guilty and who is being gaslit? 

You know, I’ve just had to write a one sentence summary for You’re Always With Me to pitch to a publisher. And I thought, how am I going to do this? That was kind of a line that they came up with, “Is Mel guilty or just gas lit?” And I think they’re so in jagged edge and basic instinct, like two classic thrillers of the eighties; there’s a high concept, glossy kind of thrillers. It all revolves around who’s really the guilty. One of the big shock, I remember being at the cinema, literally 200 people, [gasp] like that Jagged Edge. And so, if you remember there one typewriter key, the typewriter goes clack and there’s e go, you know, jumps and we all know who it is. So, those sorts of twists, the big kind of monster twist at the end is what really catches people. But I think there’s a knowingness about all genre fiction readers, you know, we kind of know what we’re looking for. We know the tropes as well as the authors, so in a sense, they’re looking for the twist, but they also kind of want to be fooled. You kind of want to find the twist.

Alessandra: There’s a delicious pain and being…

Andy: Just how did I not see that coming? That is what we’re all looking for I think. And the way I think you can set that up is by constantly wrong footing your reader right through the book. You know, you think she’s talking about eggs for breakfast, but she’s talking about her frozen eggs for fertility treatment. I mean, that’s a random example that just popped into my head. But particularly with the unreliability of the narrator, I think we have a chance to constantly wrong foot the reader. And so, in this book that I’m sort of still in the publishing or the drafting stage, the wife wants to go back and collect her car and she knows it’s safe from the family home. She knows it’s safe cause she’s worked at the husband’s gone back to work. So she drives back through London, she gets the car, and as she pulls out from the house, he’s coming up the road because he hadn’t gone home at all. 

He decided to do something different, which we kind of knew from his point of view chapter. I think one of the beauties of that sort of switching narrator is it gives you the chance to constantly play with what the reader knows and what the reader believes and what the reader thinks. And then you crashed those two realities together, so then, actually, I did have a car chase, but not a kind of tire screaming, Steve McQueen and bullet kind of car chase, but just a very kind of English kind of domestic car chase, which they’re in a traffic jam in west London. And she’s looking at the kind of rear view mirror and see this bright orange car in the background, tut there’s a couple of cars between them. Then the lights go red, there’s a little old lady in front, not going fast enough. And she’s trying to get away from this guide. And in the end, he just pulls up next to her in the two cues of traffic and it looks across like that and he’s like [shh] that. You know, oh my God. And you know, does she get away from him or does she kind of thing. So that would be an example of having an action thriller trope, but kind of dialing it down, so this chase takes place about 20 miles an hour. It’s kind of an OJ moment.

Alessandra: Yeah, and it’s a much more mental game.

Andy: We’re in her head, she’s not going to get away with super special forces driving skills.

Alessandra: Because it’s an ordinary person in an ordinary… and I want to point out something that you just mentioned. So, in a Psychological Thriller, just for the people watching, you don’t have to keep secrets, but normally there’s a mystery that the reader is trying to figure out. Whether it’s just what happened in her past or whatever else. And the way that you can tort the reader or keep them guessing is an unreliable narrator or multiple point of views and being very selective with what you show from each point of view. And that’s how you can keep those secrets while still keeping your narrators, if you want to keep your narrators honest.

Andy: Yeah, and this is something I’ve kind of learned because when you come from certainly vigilante fictional action thrillers, which I cut my teeth on, not so much the police procedures, but it’s a fairly straightforward genre. I mean, I try and play games with it because I don’t want to just do a standard kind of product, but pretty much it’s like eutherian quest, you know, there’s a bit of hold up in a castle in Serbia and our hero wants to kill this man. And he’s going to go to Serbia, fight his way through the outer defenses, hack through the thorny brambles surrounding the castle, get inside, dispatch the henchman, go mano o mano with the villain, big climactic battle, one man lies dying, one is triumphant – the end. It’s like Errol Flynn, basically, that’s my model. It’s Errol Flynn in the Trials of Robin Hood in Technicolor. You come to a Psychological Thriller and it’s much different to that, and you hide a lot more away. And one of the simple things you do is you just don’t use the name of the person in a scene. So you’ll say he, and it’s often in the first person that I look at him and I know just what he’s thinking, but who is this? We’re led to believe…

Alessandra: Where the hell am I?

Andy: So simply by using pronouns rather than names, you can quite legitimately hide away stuff. I mean, it’s actually right there in front of the reader, so there’s no fakery. It’s not that the dreaded thing when you have twins or anything like that, this is actually the two people we’re talking about, but we don’t know who they are because we’re just using pronouns. And then, you know, or there are two men, and it’s he and there’s he, but which he is it, or is it the baby and the husband? So, there’s a lot of fun. It’s like constructing a puzzle box or a sort of a maze or something.

Alessandra: We did have a viewer question. And we only have five minutes left, so if you guys have any questions, please shout them out. But she wanted to know if you found it more difficult to write psychological, because it seems far more complicated with more involve there.

Andy: And the answer is, I think I’m writing a crime novel now actually, because like a lot of it, you know, finished one start another. Yes, I did. In some ways, because I had to really kind of juggle, keep all those balls in the air, keep the mystery going, you know, figure out people’s backstories, link them in a certain way because half the characters are wearing masks and we don’t know who they are. But then, you know, with crime, with police procedurals, you have to build a crime. What I call the inciting incident, and then figure out what happened, then tuck it away and then come at it from the detective’s point of view, and uncover the clues, and put people in the right place so that they can be discovered at the right time. So, I guess maybe when I’ve written a few more, I would change my answer, but at the moment, yeah, definitely.

Alessandra: Yeah, for me… And peg had said do you have any tips for brainstorming ideas. For me, coming up with the idea of a Psychological Thriller is so much more difficult because it isn’t just a bad guy and a good guy and how are they going to battle; it’s what story am I going to paint? And then, how is that story going to be inaccurate and what are the subplots and sub-ministries and how am I going to explain all these motivation?

Andy: I mean, because I did read a lot of books, I don’t want to just repeat that. Mark Edwards has done the Neighbors from Hell, how can I do a neighbors from hell? I mean, obviously there are ways you can, but one of the things I do and always have done is just read the paper. At the moment what’s happening in the UK is very interesting. There’s been a couple of stories about adoption and birth parents. And there’s a law going through I think, to do with who’s got the right to do what. And the children I’m thinking, there’s something there now that’s just gone into my head about two sets of parents with a claim on a child, but also what does the child think? The child is 16, let’s say 15, on social media. And then, I walk my dog every day for an hour, I’m in the countryside and my brain is just freewheeling. I think that’s just something there. There’s a thing, and then it’ll go away, and then maybe a week later something else happens. And I just see something like a setting maybe, or how… there’s a house up the road from us that is like your classic murder house. It’s just been sold. I suspect somebody died in it. It’s been there for 20 years that we’ve lived here, there’s muscle over the wooden window frames and they’re cracked and grubby and you know, there’s something going on in that house. There’s a very old round window, and I’m now seeing a face pairing out of it, somehow, maybe those two setting, something about adoption. I don’t know. You just have to be opened the whole time. You’re reading, consuming to get those ideas.

Alessandra: And I think what you said or was she is just a great, like, I always say, what if, and then I like the saying, like you read an article in the paper, like, “Oh, obviously the guy killed his wife. I mean, I can tell just from these clues in the paper.” Or did he? And then, you just let your mind think through what maybe the other side could be. And Ian said, what’s your view on what works better first person or third person point of view?

Andy: Thanks, Ian. It’s a great question. And this one, I have a definite answer, which I think you need a mixture, which is the classic politicians answer. I think that I is absolutely brilliant. I haven’t written one in the first person. I think for the key characters, so what I did was I used the husband and wife in the first person, you know, I look back fondly on the agony of childbirth. And then Jonathan says, “To be honest, I don’t think I was ever a natural father, but I struggled to make it work. And little by little, I learned how to look after Harry. And after Melwin, you know, I had to step up and be mum and dad.” Oh, right, and you can be friendly, but then for the cop, because I do have, you know, there’s a death involved in infanticide. I borrowed this idea from another author Pheon Pally who is the Welsh detective. I put her in the third person, and I did that partly to create some distance and to show that she was not as foregrounded as the two main people, but also to suggest, I rationalize this afterwards; I put her in third person because I was saying, this is true. You can trust everything in these sections because she did this, she found that. If I say she saw a thumb print in blood on the window sill, there’s no way, unless I’m an unreliable narrator that that clue isn’t there. And because I’m not sort of narrator of the whole thing, I and Pheon can be trusted in that sort of schematic. And I think that worked quite well for me. And I liked the change of focus from a filming point of view, Pheon is in kind of a long shot a lot of the time, whereas, the husband and wife were in sort of extreme closeup and actually looking out through their eyes. So by using third person, it’s literally a change of viewpoint.

Alessandra: I do the exact same thing, but I never think of my third person characters as being… it was very interesting that you said that, that like they can be trusted because I’m sure that my third person characters have been bad before. But I always also used to do that with my romance novels. I definitely think you need a first person. I don’t want to say that it’s a hard and fast rule because there’s not any rules, but because Psychological Thriller is so much that inner narrative and what they’re thinking and what their motivations are and things like that; you really want to be inside at least one main characters head if you can. And this is a point of view follow up. Carolyn said, do you put different points of views in different chapters, or do you ever mix them within the same chapters? I started fresh chapter, but I started fresh chapter, I mean, I have books with a hundred chapters.

Andy: For You Are Always With Me, for the psych thriller, I made a conscious editorial decision right from the get-go to put each viewpoint character, every time the viewpoint switched so did the character. And I think if I remember, I would go Mel, at the top of the chapter in caps, then I do this, I do that. And then if it stayed with Mel the next chapter, I wouldn’t have her at the top, but then we go Jonathan or Pheon, or whoever, but I think I had three or four characters. I didn’t mix them because I felt that would be too confusing. Even if you have the three asterisks, the flare on break, whereas in my action thriller or my crime thrillers, I will often mix viewpoints within one chapter as I go. It just felt more natural to do that. Although I might borrow that technique back again into crime and chop them up more, but I think it’s a cleaner way so the reader can stay on track with who’s head they’re in.

Alessandra: And it’s kind of, I use like the example, like when you’re at a wine tasting and you’ll like sniff coffee beans in between, to me, it’s like pallet cleanser, okay, this is a new head.

Andy: Yeah, and that was a great analogy really.

Alessandra: I hate to say it, but we’re out of time. This has been a fantastic chat. And Andy has an article that if we haven’t already published it, we’ll publish it and we’ll send it out via the email list. So if you’d like to know more about his thoughts on Psychological Thrillers, we can knock out that through that article, but thank you so much, Andy, for joining us. And thank you… for everyone watching, if you are watching on YouTube, please subscribe to our channel. If you’re watching on Facebook, please join the group. And if you’re listening to the podcast, please subscribe to us there. And thank you guys so much for coming. Ian says he loves your collection of guitars, Andy. That’s first thing I noticed, but thank you guys. We’re going to sign off and we’ll see you in two weeks for another First Draft Friday.

Andy: Thanks, Allie.

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Margaret Daly
Margaret Daly
4 months ago

This was an excellent First Draft Friday episode. I’m watching the 2nd part of Writing Psychological Thrillers, Psycho or Thriller right now! https://www.facebook.com/alessandra.torre.399/videos/1939770286171848/

Rick Vasquez
2 months ago

This post was truly worthwhile to read. I wanted to say thank you for the key points you have pointed out as they are enlightening.