by Karen Dionne
In memory of Michael Crichton, who died in late 2008 at the age of 66, last April, Writer's Digest Magazine asked me to share what I learned as a writer from reading my idol’s books. Here’s what I said:
1. CHALLENGE YOUR READER. Don’t be afraid to tackle complex topics such as quantum physics or manipulating the genetic code. Readers love learning something new. Stirring their curiosity is just as important as grabbing them from the first page.
2. SURPRISE YOUR READER. No one reading The Andromeda Strain could have guessed the ending. Novels should be novel. Unpredictability is key.
3. KEEP THE CLOCK TICKING. Timing, tension, momentum, pace—Crichton set the bar. A pounding heart keeps the reader reading.
4. GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT. Whether the details pertain to science, history or setting, readers expect your research to be accurate.
5. PLAY FAST AND LOOSE WITH THE FACTS. Story trumps all. Crichton’s gift was making the impossible believable. Everyone knows that dinosaurs can’t be cloned from fossilized DNA, but if they could …
This article appeared in the March/April issue of Writer's Digest. Click here to order your copy in print. If you prefer a digital download of the issue, click here.
Karen Dionne is the author of Freezing Point (October 2008, Berkley), a thriller Douglas Preston called "a ripper of a story," with other rave endorsements from David Morrell, John Lescroart, and many others. Her next novel, Boiling Point, will be published by Berkley in October 2010. For more information about her, go to www.karendionne.net.