My 3Tips on Writing Psychological Thrillers – Michael Robotham

Gold Dagger award winning crime writer Michael Robotham is one of Australia’s most widely read authors, whose psychological thrillers have been published in 23 languages and sold millions of copies around the world.

Michael began his writing career as an investigative journalist working across Britain, Australia and America. Later he became a ghostwriter, collaborating on 15 ‘autobiographies’ for politician, pop stars, soldiers and adventurers. Twelve of these books became Sunday Times bestsellers.

Michael has two-time winner of the Ned Kelly Award for Australia’s Crime Novel of the Year, and has twice been shortlisted for the UK’s Steel Dagger and twice for the acclaimed Gold Dagger award, which he won in 2015 with his standalone thriller, LIFE OR DEATH.

Over the years we’ve had many of occasions to meet and work with Michael at various events.

188520_426625647402081_654523194_nMichael lives in Sydney with his wife and three daughters.


Michael’s 3 Tips on Writing Psychological Thrillers

1.Create compelling characters.

It is important to tell a good story, but it’s critical to have memorable characters. You must bring them to life, make them believable and, most importantly, make people care about them.  Long after we have forgotten the plot of our favourite crime novels we remember the characters. They are what bring us back to the same writers again and again.

Great characters are multi-dimensional, with quirks and flaws, motivations and values. They don’t have to be saints, but they must be charismatic and ‘readable’.

2. Suspense and Pace

There must be a ‘ticking clock’ at the heart of your story. This is what generates the suspense and the pace of the storytelling. A psychological thriller is not a gentle mystery where Miss Marple has time to tend her roses while musing over who poisoned Fortescue Smythe in the library. In a psychological thriller the clock ticks loudly because lives are in danger and the killer is still out there.

Alfred Hitchcock was the master of suspense. He said that surprise is when you have a bomb go off, while suspense is where you show people the bomb and have them wondering when it’s going to go off. Suspense involves anticipation, which is far more interesting than action, but only if you remember the really important thing…MAKE THE READER WAIT.

3. Conflict, crisis and complications

These are the twists, turns, red herrings, blind alleys and roadblocks that our hero must overcome to solve the crime and save the day. Conflict is at the heart of all great storytelling. Our hero must want something and someone or something must stand in his or her way.

Don’t make your hero too passive and don’t make it too easy. They should suffer a little and have to work hard to overcome their demons – the internal and the external ones.


What did you think? Did you find the tips useful? Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Till then…Happy Reading



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