A couple of weeks ago, I listened to a Writer’s Digest Webinar where author James Scott Bell discussed “The secrets to keeping readers up all night.” I thought I’d share some of the highlights.

  • He started off asking us, what makes a book a thriller? He then proceeded to say that a mystery is like a maze, but a thriller is a “tightening coil–you get tighter and tighter as the story moves along, the danger gets greater, the menace gets greater. You put a suspense story on steroids. The pace moves faster, it feels like the suspense and danger is constant and a lot of times a mystery is attached to it.”


  • He believes that the “foundation is to have death (physical, professional, psychological) stakes, unforgettable characters, increasing tension, and page turning compulsion.”
  • To get the reader to turn the page you need to have something unexpected in every scene, not necessarily big, can be as little as one line of dialogue.
  • My favorite suggestion that he gave to ending a chapter so the reader will read the next one is by having something bad just happen or something bad is about to happen.

I hope that you find these highlights as helpful as I did.