I began 2020 with Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter. It has been a while since I have read crime thrillers. And let me tell you this one scared the pants out of me. Estranged sisters, a grieving father, and a perfect husband. It was like a wonderful castle in the air that began shattering piece by piece. Karin Slaughter had me hooked.
I had to know more about the mastermind behind the thriller. I found a podcast where she talked about writing Pretty Girls and her life as an author.
Now I would love to share some of the juicy nuggets of inspiration.
Thrills & Chills
I always write horror stories with fantasy or science fiction elements induced in it. Personally, I find it easier to create humane monsters than monstrous humans in fiction.
Thriller is about hiding things in plain sight.– Karin Slaughter, (88 Cups Of Tea)
In the podcast, Karin Slaughter says that she feels anesthetized to shocks as she has read a lot of crime fiction. She also talks to people working in the field for her research. So, crime stories generally don’t shock her. But it does make her feel sad that they are still happening.
On the edge of lightness & dark
When Karin Slaughter is writing about something dark in a book, she balances it with some sort of lightness.
Remember to have a balance between lightness and dark, no matter what story you are writing.– Karin Slaughter, (88 Cups of Tea)
In the podcast, she pointed out that unrelenting darkness isn’t the kind of book most people read. They want to see the character’s humanity, character’s reaction to the story and see something such as survival.
Flaws are fabulous
As writers, we love putting our characters through the wringer. Sometimes the goodness in them shines. But no character is perfect. As human beings, it is the flaws that make the characters endearing.
Karin Slaughter doesn’t make her characters superheroes since people in real life are a blend of good & bad. There is no perfect person. There is no wholly good & wholly bad person.
Writing Pretty Girls
I read Pretty Girls in 3 days and it has been a long while since a crime thriller book has hooked me this way. The main character Claire was a complicated woman. She is beautiful, thin & athletic, has a wealthy husband. Her life is perfect & you think she is going to be a certain type, but she is a different one. In this book, Karin Slaughter has shown Claire’s prickly side as well.
Characters’ voices should be distinct. No matter which page you open, you should recognize the character from their voice.– Karin Slaughter, (88 Cups of Tea)
She also needed the beat of the father’s letters as the letters play out at key points in the book that gives clues to the next chapter. What amazed me the most about this book was that she did not have an outline for it, and she had written it in 12 weeks. But she had thought about it for months before writing it.
We all have our writing pains. So does Karin Slaughter. In the podcast, she mentioned that it’s not the story that’s the hard part. But it’s figuring out how to implement the story & how the characters will express the story.
The key for any writer is figuring out how to express that story through characters that people want to spend time with.– Karin Slaughter, (88 Cups of Tea)
As readers, we want to find out what the character wants to do next. That’s the difficult part.
Steps to Success
I love different genres whether it is fantasy, slipstream, science fiction, or pure horror. But it has taken me a long time to write my stories without limiting myself to a single genre.
Karin Slaughter loved reading crime fiction. But she didn’t think that she could write crime fiction. So, she was writing historical fiction in the beginning. Everything opened up when she wrote her 1st book. The 1st draft was done in 17 days. But she got a ton of rejections from agents. It crushed her when the historical novel didn’t go through.
Her proudest moments were when she was nominated. Even though she sold a gazillion books, she was always happy to be appreciated. Success for her is being able to tell the stories she wants to tell.