Tuesday, February 26, 2013

WWSSD? (What would Sidney Sheldon do?)

I’m probably showing my age but the first adult thriller book I fell in love with was IF TOMORROW COMES by Sidney Sheldon. I was right out of high school and wanted to read something in the adult genre, because . . . you know, I was finally an adult. My mother was a big fan and had a few of his books. I knew Sidney Sheldon also wrote one of my favorite TV shows, I DREAM OF JEANNIE (see, there’s really no doubt just how old I am now), so I gave it a try.

I was mesmerized. As much as I loved the books from my childhood, they weren’t anything like this. IF TOMORROW COMES was so cleverly written. I remember, toward the end, I was a nervous wreck. You see, there was this really horrible man after Tracy, the main character. He was just about to catch her and she had no idea. I was so sucked into to the story and so scared for the heroine that I couldn’t go to sleep until I found out what happened.  

And then the most amazing thing – there was a twist. Sheldon flipped the story on me and nothing was what it seemed. (I really don’t want to ruin the ending because even though it’s 20+ years old, this is a fabulous book and you should definitely check it out). I can remember how stunned I was. This was not the first book I’d read where a plot twist was used but it was the first twist I never saw coming. Now, being new to the genre, it probably wasn’t hard to blindside me but I was utterly impressed all the same and my love of the unexpected was born.

That is really the key to a great thriller – suck the reader in and then . . . BAM! . . . total surprise twist that changes everything. It’s a simple concept but tough to pull off. You need to drop a few hints so the twist doesn’t feels far-fetched and phony but you can’t give too much away that everyone sees the twist coming. It’s a delicate balance.

So when I start plotting a story, I always ask myself, “What would Sidney Sheldon do?”  

For more info on IF TOMORROW COMES, click here!  
Ashley Elston lives in North Louisiana with her husband and three sons. Her debut, THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING, will be published by Disney-Hyperion on May 14, 2013. Ashley has read IF TOMORROW COMES approximately 6 times and will probably re-read again as soon as she finishes typing this bio.
You can find Ashley here:


  1. This cracked me up -- and genuinely has me off to read If Tomorrow Comes! I love nothing better than a well-done twist. I wonder if it'll matter that I know it's coming...

  2. I have been looking for great examples of plot twists. And have never read Sidney Sheldon, incredibly. Thanks for the recommendation! It's also interesting to me how adult mysteries and thrillers can influence our writing for younger audiences...

    1. I really like him but be warned - this book is very adult!


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