How to Write a Political Thriller
A Written Remains Guest Blog by Barbara Norton, Author of BREAKING NEWS
Do you aspire to write the political thrillers you love to read – the ones with memorable characters, intriguing plots, murders, scandals, and surprising twists that keep you turning pages well into the night.
One of the best ways to learn how to write in this genre is not just to read, but to study, the masters. They are bestselling authors like Brad Meltzer, Steve Berry, David Baldacci, Lee Child, Newt Gingrich, Margaret Truman, and her collaborator Don Bain. Read them, and then find a way to add your own unique voice, something that makes your books a little different. Notice how the characters these authors create include protagonists who are often likable but flawed, and antagonists who are diabolical and dangerous. These heroes are wounded loners who don’t quite fit in society, but who keep getting drawn back into the fight to protect a sacred principle, their country, or even the world, because they have skills and they care. They are ex-CIA like Berry’s Cotton Malone or ex-military like Child’s Jack Reacher. They tend to be lawyers, reporters, detectives, historians – anyone with a job that calls for an investigator who has the guts to pursue the truth, even when no one else will.
The stakes are high because the people these lead characters go up against are usually wealthy and/or ruthless. They hold positions of power in government (Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, Senators, White House staff, etc.) who may be in league with other criminals with major influence in business, world affairs or politics. Allowing them to win can have far-reaching consequences with the potential to change history.
If you are writing a series (which you should be if you want to make money), you need to plan well in advance which characters will live in future books and then pay special attention to their backstories, their relationships, and their potential for interesting additional plot lines.
You don’t have to have been a spy or elected President to write about them, but you do have to do your research. The devil is in the details. If you don’t know how the interior of the White House is laid out, or how news gets on-air, many of your readers will. I suggest you read, read, read … thrillers, mysteries, creative nonfiction, biographies of world leaders, and any non-fiction books and articles you can use as sources for the details you’re missing. While I was writing Breaking News, I read a non-fiction account by the HMX pilot who flew Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama all over the world on Air Force One and Marine One; a book by a White House chef that described entertaining, especially during holidays; and a book titled The News Sorority that told about the careers of three top female news anchors. All were invaluable.
Political thrillers are mysteries on steroids. Writing them will challenge your intellect and imagination. Go save the world. It’s great fun!
© 2017 Barbara Norton
THE NEW FIRST LADY OF POLITICAL THRILLERS
Barbara Norton adds a woman’s perspective, a little romance, and a fascinating cast of fictional characters to the page-turning excitement in Breaking News. The novel is the first in a series of Jillian Rain political thrillers. It builds on Barbara’s life-long interest in journalism and on the lives and high-stakes drama surrounding the people who live and work at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A former advertising creative manager, editor, and copywriter, and an accomplished public speaker and editorial cartoonist, Ms. Norton makes her home in Delaware. Follow her at www.BarbNorton.com.