By Dan Padavona
Are you an aspiring horror writer eager to put pen to paper and create a chilling serial killer thriller? Writing a successful murder mystery novel is no easy task. It requires creativity, attention to detail, suspenseful pacing, and well-developed characters, all within the confines of one gripping story.
Luckily for you, I’ve written a lot of serial killer thrillers! So here are nine essential tips that will take your serial killer thrillers from average shivers to spine-tingling chills every time! Read on for advice on how to craft menacing villains, multi-dimensional protagonists, strong themes, and more.
1. Research, research, research
Researching before you start writing is the key to creating an authentic and gripping story. Whether you’re writing historical fiction or just want to capture the feel of a real-life serial killer, researching these notorious individuals and their crimes will give your story the extra layer of realism it needs.
Plus, there’s something undeniably fascinating about wading through archives, studying sources, and reconstructing what really happened. It almost helps to bring these cases back to life! So if you want to ensure your work has an unmistakable level of credibility and authenticity, conduct extensive research into all aspects of your serial killer’s behavior and modus operandi.
2. Create a strong protagonist
When you want to create a strong protagonist that people can relate to, you must ensure they’re a complex character. They should have different strengths and weaknesses that help you understand their motivations and personality. When it comes to an antagonist facing serial killers, this is especially important as they’ll be up against intense danger!
Your main character must have enough complexity to keep readers engaged and root for them in the face of danger. Think about how unique skills or personal flaws could help bring your main character’s narrative to life.
3. Develop a compelling villain
The serial killer that readers love to hate is a classic trope in storytelling, and for good reason. These characters captivate with their complexity. The serial killer must be skillfully crafted to effectively maintain audience interest. After all, an underwhelming imbalance between strengths and weaknesses will leave readers feeling unimpressed.
And a serial killer that’s all-powerful or overly sympathetic will come across as unrealistic or generic. In short, crafting a strong serial killer protagonist requires a dynamic mix of character strengths and weaknesses, presented authentically and engagingly.
4. Build suspense
Building suspense in your story can be done using various techniques, including slowing down the pace and burying crucial information. Serial killer stories are often driven by the slow unfolding of events, leading to unexpected twists and turns.
To create foreboding tension, you can introduce a macabre setting, add symbols that foretell what’s to come or simply hide vital aspects until key moments in your story. All these devices will keep your reader hanging onto every word and help you construct a story full of anticipation and excitement.
5. Use plot twists
Plot twists can be a fun and effective way to keep your serial killer fiction gripping and readers engaged. While serial killer stories often involve traditional tropes, transitioning up the ante with unexpected plot turns can make them stand out. With exciting concepts such as double agents, mysterious identities, or coups in far-off lands, serial killer fanatics are constantly on the edge of their seats, eager to discover what happens next.
Whether it’s a seemingly harmless teacher with a dastardly secret identity, an unknown syndicate weaving a web in plain sight, or politically charged serial killings by an unassuming figurehead, when used judiciously, plot twists can significantly broaden the horizon for serial killer fiction.
6. Pace your story
It is essential to pace your story appropriately, ensuring that action, dialogue, and description are balanced. Watching a serial killer’s escape from the police is exciting and thrilling while also providing juicy moments of dialogue and thought-provoking scenes of description. Wanting to give readers a respite from the action doesn’t mean you need to slow down the pace. Instead, you could use intriguing character backstories or flashback sequences to interweave between suspenseful scenes of danger.
Feel free to toy around with the pacing to ensure your story holds people’s attention. Switch between long and short scenes or include surprising revelations during fast-paced sections so that something new or unexpected draws readers in further.
7. Use multiple POVs
Using multiple points of view (POVs) for a serial killer story can add extra tension and complexity to your fiction. Rather than having the reader experience only one side of the narrative, switching between different characters allows you to explore the moral ambiguity that serial killers often bring in their wake.
Multiple POVs allow you to introduce another set of voices representing different parts of society and their reaction to serial killers, from law enforcement, victims’ families, and (perhaps even more chilling) the serial killer’s perspective. With multiple POVs, you can give readers an in-depth look into how serial killers become what they are, shining light onto the darkness that hides behind them.
8. Show, don’t tell
To write a serial killer narrative in an engaging way, it is important to remember to show rather than tell the story. Instead of simply telling readers about the serial killer’s next move. For example, vivid descriptive language should be used to transport readers into the world of the serial killer.
Use everything in the world of your story, from descriptions of gritty alleyways and crime scenes as they develop over time to facial expressions and body language that paint an eerie portrait of the villain. Through this technique, readers will become more immersed in your serial killer narrative and start anticipating what happens next.
9. End with a bang
When it comes to serial killers, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Readers will rely on you to bring about a satisfying conclusion to the story! Luckily for them, you have all the tricks in your toolbox. Crafting a conclusion that ties up all loose ends, connects pre-existing plot points, and leaves readers feeling content is essential.
That’s why you always provide plenty of resolution and closure, from checking off various clues from the serial killer’s game plan to having justice prevail over evil. Your goal is for readers to feel that their journey has come full circle and then wrap up with a bang!
Writing a serial killer thriller novel can be an enjoyable and daunting task. But by utilizing the nine tips in this blog post, you will have all the necessary instruments to create an outstanding serial killer thriller novel of your own, captivating readers from start to finish.
Remember, serial killer novels are unique in that they require masterful characterization and plotting, and there is something that many avid thriller authors love about such a challenge. With practice, time, and effort comes skill. Take pride in what you write. If you’re inspired by the idea of writing suspenseful stories that keep readers on their toes, you can become a successful novelist in no time!
Best of luck with your future writings!
About Dan Padavona
Dan Padavona is a hugely popular author in the mystery and thriller genres, well-known for his captivating and immensely popular serial killer series. Among his notable works are The Wolf Lake series, The Logan and Scarlett book series, The Darkwater Cove series, The Scarlett Bell series, and The Dark Vanishings series. It’s fair to say that he knows something about writing serial killers.
With an impressive track record of success, his novels have consistently ranked high in Kindle, paperback, and audiobook formats, with many appearing in the top 20. In 2016, the first book of his gripping Dark Vanishings series was recognized as a finalist for the eFestival of Word’s Indie Novel of the Year award. It’s no wonder that he’s been hailed as one of the most thrilling writers to burst onto the scene in recent years.