During a session titled “Revealing the Enigma” at the 42nd Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) 2023, internationally acclaimed author, Alex Finlay, shared invaluable techniques and advice for writers to create compelling mysteries and thrillers. Following the knowledge-packed session, Finlay also signed copies of his latest book, ‘What Have We Done.’
The writer, whose books have been optioned for both film and television gave the eager audience insightful tips to make a manuscript stand out. “While writing a mystery try to avoid ‘detail overload.’ Eliminate the urge to disclose the back-story and every detail of a character in the opening pages, giving readers just enough to keep them engaged and wanting to know more. The trick is to raise questions instead of supplying all the answers. This will keep the story lean and the book will move at a good pace,” he explained.
Finlay said he gleaned these interesting technique’s after interviewing close to 70 successful writers himself, saying, “What most of these experienced writers told me was that when you write a thriller or mystery, spread ‘bread crumbs,’ giving little details about the character. If you want the story to move quickly, raise the reader’s curiosity then slowly, start dispersing information as you go along.”
Avoid an “information dump,” on your readers, Finlay advised newbie authors. Writers of mystery novels must resist the urge to give readers a history lecture or unnecessary information and research in the middle of a story. “This is a thriller.” he exclaimed. “The idea is to keep the reader invested in the story to keep them turning the pages. If you want to impress a reader, do it by telling the story with mystery and enigma, not by sharing your research. Readers are smart enough to fill gaps in the novels with their own experiences and imagination,” he added.
A strong advocate of practicing discipline when it comes to writing, re-writing and editing a novel, Finlay’s staunch advice was to keep with the regiment of penning one page a day, regardless of writer’s block. “If you write one page a day, by the end of the year you will have a full book. Even if you are not in a creative mood and don’t feel like writing a big scene, do something small, a bit of research or formatting, sorting, anything that will help move the project along. That is how you will get to the end of writing a book without the drudgery or pressure of finishing it,” Finlay revealed.
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