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Next Class Runs April 12th – May 7th  

Art of Suspense

How To Write Thrillers That Keep Readers Hooked!


The thriller story can take many forms – from corporate espionage and international politics to serial killers and technology run amok. But one thing that marks any page-turning potboiler is a heady dose of twists, turns, tension… and the art of suspense.

Given the topical variation and genre conventions at play, we must warn that Art of Suspense may contain content and discussion unsuitable for minors or those sensitive to violent or tense material.

As part of this course, you will be expected to read and provide feedback on the writing or ideas of your fellow students. Just like a virtual writing group, we all work together to develop stories, explore themes, and elevate skills. Interaction is key and you should understand that engaging with the course, through assignments and discussion, is a necessary part of the process.

If you’re ready to join in and craft your next nail biter, read on to discover what’s in store.

Discover the Art of Suspense

Helping you craft a knockout thriller

Art of Suspense - Detective in Villain's Lair

Throughout five separate chapters, plus a diverse selection of exercises and references, Art of Suspense will guide you through the building blocks at the core of any successful thriller.

From foundational practices to specific, scene-based methods, you’ll learn how to find interesting hooks, develop those hooks into compelling stories, and connect the dots to form your very own heart-pumping thrill machine.

Hosted by Gareth, AutoCrit’s resident story coach and suspense connoisseur, this 4-week interactive course includes weekly hour-long live streams and Q&A sessions. You can even receive feedback on your writing from your peers should you wish to share it.

Featuring stimulating quotes from genre luminaries plus scene and technique breakdowns including authors such as Thomas Harris, Ruth Ware, Lee Child, Tom Clancy, Karin Slaughter and more, it’s time to take a trip deep into the heart of the Art of Suspense.

Chapter 1: The Search For Story

(Live Class on Monday, April 12th at 4pm EST) 

Lady detective taking photographs through blinds

In this foundational module, we’ll walk you through:

  • What makes a thriller, and the conventions that set them apart from other suspense-led genres, such as horror and mystery.
  • The gigantic range of thrilling possibilities to consider – so you’re never short of core story ideas and settings.
  • Understanding the conventional structure of an effective thriller – and how stories can continue to surprise and shock, even if their structural foundations are similar.
  • How to uncover striking story hooks in the everyday world, and the themes to match.
  • How to make genre tropes work for you, rather than against you.
  • Figuring out your story’s promise – and how this promise can set you up for quick and easy structural planning.

Chapter 2: Iconic Conflict – Heroes & Villains

(Live Class on Monday, April 19th at 4pm EST)

Hero and Villain

Characters come in all shapes and sizes, with an endless array of backgrounds, specialties… and fates.

In this chapter, we’ll cover all things character, including:

  • The key elements of believable characters.
  • Why deeper understanding of your story’s cast can save you from the dreaded writer’s block.
  • What makes for iconic heroes, anti-heroes, and villains.
  • How to ensure every character earns their right to take up space on the page… and how to know when they’re not.

Backed up with pre-made custom worksheets, you’ll turn your character-building duties into a straightforward, resistance-free process.

Chapter 3: Connecting The Dots

(Live Class on Monday, April 26th at 4pm EST)

Detective tracing evidence on a map

No thriller is complete without the twists and turns we expect from an engrossing thriller… but it can often feel like you’re just a page away from losing control.

In this module, you’ll discover:

  • How to lay down key plot points and join them together in a killer tale that never gets boring.
  • How to make the right choice of Point of View – both on a scene by scene basis, and in your story as a whole.
  • How your choice of location and setting can add a wealth of thematic depth to your work.
  • Why understanding your character web will make your life, much, much easier.
  • The importance of research… and how to know when enough is enough.
  • Key considerations to determine the length of your story (or series).

Chapter 4: Secrets Of Suspense

(Live Class on Monday, May 3rd at 4pm EST)

Crime scene investigators

Every author’s written style bears their own hallmark – but some secrets of suspenseful page-turners are more easily replicated.

In this module, we’re getting our hands dirty with exploration of:

  • What suspense truly means, and its function as a narrative device.
  • The difference between cinematic writing and engaging narrative prose – and the deadly pitfalls you’ll need to avoid depending on your medium.
  • Why “show, don’t tell” remains a foundational rule of writing – but hardly one it’s never appropriate to break.
  • Making location and setting a character in your story, so you can add a layer of suspense and tension even when no one is around…
  • How to keep up the pace, and keep readers turning pages long into the night with “just one more chapter” fever.
  • How to construct scenes that keep people hooked from start to finish, again and again.
  • Writing dramatic dialogue that throbs with energy and conflict.

Chapter 5: Thrilling Tips and Techniques

(Live Class on Monday, May 3rd at 4pm EST)

Woman shocked while reading a book

Finally, we wrap up with a closing salvo of invaluable tips and techniques you can use time and time again to craft a gripping thriller.

We can’t give away all our secrets, but some of the techniques you’ll learn to master include:

  • What to do when it looks like your hero may be turning into a villain (a key concern in many an action thriller!).
  • The “organic” method for tackling plot holes and unsatisfactory character development once your first draft is complete.
  • Methods for effective foreshadowing and allowing your readers to involve themselves in the story.
  • What to do when something doesn’t seem to fit, or things just feel wrong once your story concludes.

Bonus: Scenes & Stories Deconstructed

Bullet impact in window pane with blood

In addition to the examples discussed within chapters, you’ll further contextualize core teachings of the Art of Suspense thriller writing course as we take a closer look at the makeup of selected scenes and stories from authors including:

  • Ruth Ware 
  • Michael Crichton
  • Dan Brown
  • Karin Slaughter
  • Thomas Harris
  • Lee Child

Develop stronger insight into the storytelling techniques used by some of the most popular thriller authors in the business to keep readers hooked – so you know exactly how and when to use them yourself.

The AutoCrit Member Community 

Activities, guests, and hours of additional content

Laptop screenshot of the Nightmare Fuel community with guest Lee Murray on replay

Alongside the Art of Suspense course content and live classes, you’ll also receive access to our members-only community forums throughout the course period.

Chat about all things writing, share your work, engage in creative activities with like-minded authors, and more.

Plus, join us for exclusive live events with additional guests from within the publishing industry. Get involved, ask your questions, and share some quality time with the professionals at no extra cost.

Past guests in our live events include:

  • Lee Murray
  • Jo Kaplan
  • David Haynes
  • John L. Probert
  • Thana Niveau
  • Gary McMahon
  • Rayne Hall

If you miss an event, don’t worry – recordings are posted for community members, offering hour after hour of expertise for you to dig into right away.


“AutoCrit is my online editor of choice. A prime reason my debut book has become an Amazon Best Seller!”

–Larry J. Dunlap


Ready For a Thrill?


The 4-week interactive writing course, including weekly live streams and module assignments. (All live classes are recorded for playback.)

Course materials presented in written, audio, and video formats. No matter how you prefer to learn, we’ve got you covered. You can even save all materials to enjoy at a later time once the course has finished.

Easy-to-follow worksheets – including the Character Creator, Story Planner, Suspenseful Scene Planner, Scientific Investigation Questionnaire, and more…

42 stellar writing prompts to fire up your imagination.

Specially selected Scenes & Stories Deconstructed bonus, featuring annotated breakdowns of what makes specific scenes and stories tick.

Full access to AutoCrit Pro, the complete writing and editing platform to help you perfect your new visionary tales, throughout the course period.

Access to the exclusive AutoCrit Member Community network, featuring private discussion forums, special members-only events and Q&As with authors, editors, publishers, and the AutoCrit team, throughout the course period.

Attending an in-person course that provides the same wealth of instruction and activities you can find as part of every Art of Suspense class could cost you upwards of $397 depending on where you go – but we’re asking nowhere near that kind of investment today.

Better yet, you won’t even find yourself stuck in a stuffy conference room with a lack of refreshments while you study.

Nor will you be forced to watch the clock as your tutor umms and ahhs their way through course topics. Art of Suspense is designed to accelerate your progress without leaving you hanging on too long.

Yet with the inclusion of your own private community restricted to course members, the personal interaction of attending a physical event will be readily available whenever you need it.

Should you run into any problems, we bet you’ll even find our customer support to be thrillingly responsive.

Click the Register Now button to join us for the next scheduled course.

Full Course Access Just


Or two payments of $74.50

Full course access just $149

Taking part in Art of Suspense promises to be an exciting and inspirational experience, but if you don’t believe that anything you’ve encountered throughout the course has helped make you more capable of crafting a great thriller, we won’t act like the villain. Your purchase is an investment in your skills as a writer – so it’s only fair you expect an improvement in your abilities.

If you feel that hasn’t happened, just let us know within 60 days of purchase and we’ll be happy to offer you a full refund. It’s as simple as that.