Writing a Psychological Thriller

Write a twisty, suspenseful thriller that readers won’t be able to put down – with bestselling author Erin Kelly.


May 18 2022 - Jun 29 2022

Suspense Fiction

Write a gripping psychological thriller


Hosted on our bespoke learning platform


+ £145 for a 500-word report


From Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca to the novels of Patricia Highsmith, Barbara Vine, Nicci French, Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and Liane Moriarty, psychological thrillers have been keeping us on the edge of our seats for decades. They are among the most popular books in the fiction charts – offering an adrenaline ride of obsession, toxic relationships, long-simmering revenge, secret identities, and double lives. If you’re keen to write your own original thriller – whether you have the germ of an idea or are already half-way through – this course is for you.

Across six weeks, bestselling novelist Erin Kelly will take you on a journey – exploring what makes a satisfying psychological thriller by drawing on popular examples of the genre and identifying key techniques you can bring to your own writing. From plotting complex twists and turns to building suspense, mastering flashbacks, and creating intriguing, believable characters that readers relate to, Erin will equip you with all the tools you’ll need to hook your readers from the outset and keep them turning the pages. Erin is a popular CBC tutor, having taught novel-writing courses in our London office for several years, her former students include bestselling authors Laura Marshall, Caz Frear and Jenny Quintana.

In addition to the specially filmed teaching videos, detailed notes, and resources, Erin will set weekly writing tasks that will help you to practice the skills you’re learning and bring them to bear directly on your novel. These range from identifying the big hook – the ticking clock that drives the story – to getting to know your characters and learning how to dramatise scenes (showing rather than telling). All students will receive a short piece of written feedback on one writing task from an expert editor during the course.

Erin’s material is rich, accessible, and full of useful tips and guidance that should be equally helpful to those dipping their toe into writing for the first time and to those who have lots of writing experience and want to try out a new genre or hone their suspense skills.


Erin Kelly, author

Erin Kelly is the author of He Said/She Said, which spent a total of twelve weeks in the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller lists. Her first novel The Poison Tree became a major ITV drama and a Richard & Judy bestseller. Erin has written four more original psychological thrillers, The Sick Rose, The Burning Air, The Ties That Bind, and We Know You Know, all of which were published to critical acclaim, and in 2014, she wrote the official novel and short story series of the hit TV series Broadchurch. Photograph: John Godwin


Weekly Teaching Modules

We give you the tools to help you write an exciting, unputdownable thriller

Work through six weekly modules comprising teaching videos, substantial notes and tasks by Erin Kelly. Topics range from developing an original hook to opening with a bang, to mastering plot twists and multiple viewpoints, and sustaining tension throughout.

Erin Kelly Teaching Video

Dedicated Teaching Videos

Bestselling author Erin Kelly guides you through the course

Watch specially filmed, informative teaching videos presented by Erin Kelly, offering a practical and inspiring approach to help you understand the key elements of suspense fiction and craft your own nail-biting story.

Resources & Notes

Comprehensive teaching notes and reference materials which are yours to keep

You’ll get access to detailed notes and teaching resources, including multiple case studies from Erin’s bestselling novels and popular psychological thriller books.

Curtis Brown Creative learning platform forum

Student Forum

The hub of our online courses – find your writing community

Upload your completed tasks, give and receive feedback, and discuss this week’s topics with your fellow students and the CBC team.

Weekly Tasks

Tailor-made tasks help you put the lessons into practice

Work your way through Erin’s weekly tasks, including plotting your evolving questions on a timeline, identifying showing-to-telling ratios, and shifting the viewpoint of your story to explore your antagonist’s psychology.


Get feedback from your peers and an expert CBC editor

Sharpen your editorial eye through offering comment on other students’ work and get their feedback on yours. An expert CBC editor will give brief written comments on several of the students’ practical assignments each week, with all students receiving feedback on a task at some stage of the course.


You can follow the course at your own pace, but to get the best out of it, allow plenty of time each week to watch the videos, read and reflect on the notes and resources, complete the writing tasks, and take part in discussions in the forum. We encourage all students to offer positive, constructive feedback to each other in the forum as the course progresses.

It’s also important to be working on your psychological thriller throughout the six weeks. At the end of the course, we invite students to share the opening 3,000 words plus a one-page synopsis (written with the help of the course) to give an overview of the story. This is not a submission to the agency but an opportunity to get peer feedback.


All students will be given the option to purchase feedback on their final task from a CBC editor (a published author with relevant teaching/editorial experience).

  • CBC report: For an additional fee of £145, you can obtain a detailed 500-word report on your work (of up to 3,000 words) from one of our editors.
  • CBC report + tutorial: For an additional fee of £240, you can obtain a 500-word report from one of our editors and have a 30-minute video or telephone tutorial with them to discuss your work.
Watching Erin Kelly's teaching videos


Each week students will gain access to a new module packed with practical advice for how to develop and write your psychological thriller. Our bespoke learning platform features separate forum spaces for all six teaching modules, arranged in a clear structure that’s easy to use. Our online learning space allows students to quickly find and take part in discussions and to easily locate task materials they’d like to refer back to.



Explore key elements of the psychological thriller genre, including how to hook your reader from page one and ask questions to keep them guessing throughout.



Establish who, what, where, why, and when, and learn to dramatize scenes to bring your characters and story to life.



Discover different approaches to plotting, how to cut from one timeline to another, write effective flashback scenes,  and navigate the tricky midpoint.



Create vivid characters with rich inner lives and complex motivations, find the best viewpoint/s for your story and learn how to switch between multiple narrators.



Keep your readers on the edge of their seats by mastering the tools of the trade, including foreshadowing, withholding, misdirection, red herrings, reveals, and the killer twist.



Diffuse or explode the timebomb you set in the first few pages of the novel – discover how to write a satisfying ending, and what to do if you have a plot hole.


We’re excited to have you join our community of writers. Choose your preferred option from the right-hand-side and click the ‘Pay & Enrol’ button by 16 May 2022 (midnight, end of day). Make sure that you agree to the Terms and Conditions. If you have a discount code you can input the details at payment. You will be shown a secure credit card form for payment. Once you have paid you will receive an email confirming your enrolment.

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