ThrillerFest – Part 1

My top 10 reads for the summer include two of my favorite authors – Steve Berry and Anne Rice.  Earlier this year when I saw they would both attend ThrillerFest, I decided it was time to take the plunge.  I am very glad I did.

For those that have never attended, there are several parts to this conference. CraftFest takes place on the first day and one half. AgentFest is the afternoon of the second day. ThrillerFest  is days three and four. FanFest is a cocktail party on the evening of day three.

CraftFest. This part of the conference has lots of sessions led by individual  authors/presenters. Each session is about 45 minutes. Several were led by Steve Berry and he is an excellent teacher.  I attended his sessions and one of points he made in his presentation made me think about story structure in a new way.  He divides the novel into three parts – that wasn’t new.  But then  he looks at the timeframe of the story and divides it into three parts.  For one of his books, the timeline is over a 36 hour period.  This puts about 6 hours in the first “act” where the character, conflict and crucible start.  The 30 hours in the second “act” include all the complications, and the 6 hours for the third “act” involve the crisis point and conclusion.  This is probably not new to many, but I was thinking in terms of pages not time – and this changed my focus.   I am going to review my current work with this in mind.

Mr. Berry was also asked about prologues since all of his books have one. His criteria: Did it happen before the story starts? Do you need the information in the prologue to understand the story?  If the answer to both is not yes, then his view is that the prologue needs to be worked into the main story.

ThrillerFest. This part of the conference features moderated panels that provide a lot of different information and feedback on a wide variety of subjects pertaining to thriller, suspense and mystery writing/publishing.  For example, the question of what the hardest part in writing an historic thriller provided different answers:  communication (since there are no cell phones and it takes a long time for word to travel, distance (transportation is slow) and the lack of information on children and women (since most historical documents only relate to men).

ThrillerFest also had some fun interview sessions.  Michael Palmer was interviewed by his son and the banter was great.  My favorite was the interview of Anne Rice by her son, Christopher.  It was one of the liveliest interview sessions I have ever seen.  It flowed quickly between personal questions and craft. As most know, Ms. Rice’s books deal with loss, grief and despair (as well as other things) and she talked about the power of “going where the pain is.”  She also talked about using concrete details and the same tone as the main story when using historical flashbacks, a method she uses to make these scenes more effective.

FanFest. This was a new event this year and gave those attending a chance to visit with their favorite author.  Daryl Gerber Woods (aka Avery Aames) was gracious enough to provide me with a ticket.  For authors, it’s a chance to meet some fans.  For fans, it was an additional time for book signings and pictures with an author.   It was a lively event.

In looking back, attending all four days is a lot.  I will attend again, but will probably couple AgentFest with either CraftFest or ThrillerFest but not with both. It would be hard to choose because I liked aspects of both.

You’re probably thinking I’ve left out AgentFest and you would be right. AgentFest was wonderful and my next blog talks about my experiences.  Stay tuned.

How about you?  Have you been to this conference?  Have you pitched there?

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