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How to Write a Thriller

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Every so often, and with great justification, I get all insecure about my writing. Some glib literary pundit tempts me with a book, or a course, or a video which is guaranteed to impart the ultimate secret of writing a blockbuster, making my fortune, gaining world acclaim, and the respect of my peers.

And every so often, you guessed, I fall for it. I visualise myself interviewed on talk shows, signing publishing deals, optioning the film rights, co-producer in the titles, red carpet, Booker Prize, superyacht. And, inevitably, transmitting the secret to others. Pathetic I know, but you can’t take away my dreams. Or maybe you can, but please don’t try. Which brings me to 'How to Write a Thriller,' by Scott Mariani.

So, as you have probably gathered, I’m a graphic designer. That’s my day job. I’ve been a graphic designer ever since the days they called us commercial artists. We are talking fifty-plus years. And for the last eight years I have specialised in book design for the self-publishing market. The righteous aim of a graphic designer is to be invisible. To be an unseen conduit for communication. Do your job right and the information just flows. Regardless of all the flair your ego injects along the way, one aspect of your job trumps all else. Readability.

The mechanics of how books (especially paperbacks) are constructed, means that the internal gutter between the text and the spine always appears smaller. So the graphic designer compensates by reducing the margin on the outside edge of the page, and increasing the margin on the inside edge. And thus, even though the text doesn’t physically sit in the centre of the page, it looks like it does. It’s basic. Fundamental.

Check out the spacing in the sample taken from ‘How to Write a Thriller.’ They’ve got it the wrong way round. If Scott Mariani does indeed hold the secret, he’ll have to keep it to himself. I can’t even bear to look at it.

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