August 14, 2018

The two ways to start a killer crime novel.

I read thirteen opening pages of thirteen popular crime novels, so you don’t have to. And what did it teach me? That there is two ways to start a great thriller. That’s right, only two, there might be hundreds of different ways to do it, but these two are guaranteed to hook your reader in.

1.Start with a murder

Angels & Demons  “Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelt burning flesh, and he knew it was his own”
The Girl on the Train “She’s buried beneath a silver birch tree, down towards the old train tracks, her grave marked with a Cairn”

This is guaranteed to hook your reader in because they’re not spending fifty odd pages getting to know the world before you throw them in. That means those people who are looking at a bunch of crime novels at once, reading first lines and picking one out, will prefer yours. When you grab the reader in the first line, they want to keep reading, to find out more. So start your thriller off with a bang, talk about a death, or be in the middle of a kill scene. That will leave them trying to put the pieces together.

2.Start with cold hard facts

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo “It happened every year, it was almost a ritual”
Believe Me “On the day of departure, guests are requested to vacate their rooms by noon”

This is a different way to do things, that might not pack a punch like the first option, but will pull in people who are familiar with the genre. It doesn’t have the cliche first line, but if you’re a crime lover, you’ll be wondering what the hell this random line has to do with a killer. That confusion alone, if resolved quickly, can hook a reader in. Facts are a good way to set the tone to build up to that killing scene too!

So, you get the gist of it, don’t dally around! make your reader learn something about the killer from the get-go to make sure they don’t put your book down! Keep your sentences short, snappy, and dark, then you’ll have a recipe for success.

Until next time,


This blog is part of the NMIT Blog Network. The articles and comments in this blog are the opinion of the authors and not necessarily those of NMIT.