Year 7 thriller writing workshop

Had a very enjoyable thriller-writing workshop this morning with a cracksquad of Year 7 writers from The Hayling College, Park Community School and Cowplain School. We talked about the ingredients of a good thriller and about the need to have a strong concept that you can ‘pitch’ in a very few words. We talked about heroes and villains, story arcs, high stakes and Snakes on a Plane. Then each table group worked on the concept and outline of their own thriller. There were some real crackers, including:

  • Clawed mutants versus humans in a dystopian future
  • Spies disguised as mannequins in a shop window
  • A David Cameron doppelganger in the secret service
  • Trapped inside IKEA with a killer

There’s a tendency, of course, among boys in particular, to want to explore inherently violent concepts, like that last one. Violence, real or threatened, is a part of most thrillers, but too much gore pushes your thriller over the edge into slasher territory. When writing your novel or screenplay it’s important to bear in mind Alfred Hitchcock’s maxim: There’s no terror in the bang of the gun, only the anticipation of it.

Well done to all those students who took part, and good luck with your own burgeoning writing careers.

A couple of links that might be of interest:

  • How to Write a Thriller: this page from has some very good advice about how to write a thriller.
  • Year 7 thriller writing workshop: this is the Powerpoint Presentation I used for the workshop this morning. It won’t entirely make sense without the accompanying talk and activity guidelines, but it may contain material that is useful to you.

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Stephen Davies

Children's author: picture books, chapter books and YA novels

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