Are there any good books to learn about character development for mystery/thriller genre fiction? For example, when to introduce the character(s), how much background info to give about each character, how to make the character evolve through the struggles etc etc.


3 Answers 3


I would suggest:

  1. Creating Unforgettable Characters by Linda Seger. This is actually listed as recommended reading for applicants to ABC network's writing fellowship.

  2. 45 Master Characters and A Writer's Guide to Characterization by Victoria Schmidt. Reviews for these can come off mixed, but I like how Schmidt uses the hero's journey and mythological character archetypes as templates.

  3. Last, but not least, there's Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress. I would dive into this for when you really want to push that envelope.

  4. If you'd like a good primer on thrillers or mysteries, read How to Write a Damn Good Thriller and How to Write a Damn Good Mystery by James N. Frey. I found his books helpful, but opinions on his work are pretty polarizing. You can play it safe by borrowing these from your library. For something more modern, check out Jodie Renner's How to Write a Killer Thriller.

  5. For further inspiration, I would also read major works by Raymond Chandler ("Farewell, My Lovely), Dashiell Hammett ("The Maltese Falcon"), and John Le Carre ("Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy").


It is not about characters in mystery/thrillers specifically, but Orson Scott Cards Characters & Viewpoint is considered by many (myself included) to be one of the best books on the subject.

For a more general description of character develpoment in a plot i highly recommend Larry Brooks' Story Engineering


Two of the best Character-building books for me are:

  1. Write Great Fiction - Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint, by Nancy Kress - amazon link

    You can read this book for free on Amazon if you are a Kindle Unlimited (Kindle Online Library) member. Its a very readable book and explains character creation very well.


  1. Creating Characters: The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction - amazon link, (compilation) by various authors

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