September 24 – 30: “How do writers invite readers into the conspiracy?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5George Bernard Shaw said that “all professions are conspiracies against the laity.” This week ITW members Liam Sweeny, Paul D. Marks and Neil Plakcy will discuss how writers invite readers into the conspiracy? Scroll down to the “Comments” section below – you won’t want to miss this!


Paul D. Marks has written three novels, co-edited two anthologies and written countless short stories. He’s won a Shamus Award, was voted #1 in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine’s 2016 Reader’s Choice Award and been nominated for Anthony, Macavity and Derringer Awards. His story “Windward” was chosen for The Best American Mysteries of 2018. His short fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Akashic’s Noir series (St. Louis), Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Crimestalker Casebook, Hardluck Stories, Hardboiled, and many others. Paul has served on the boards of the Los Angeles chapters of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.


Liam Sweeny is an author and graphic designer from the Capital Region of New York State. His work has appeared both online and in print, in such periodicals as Spinetingler Magazine, Thuglit, All Due Respect, Pulp Modern and So It Goes: the Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. He is the author of the collection Dead Man’s Switch and the detective thriller Welcome Back, Jack.


Neil Plakcy has written or edited over three dozen novels and short stories in mystery, romance and erotica. To research the Angus Green series, he participated in the FBI’s sixteen-week citizen’s academy, practiced at a shooting range, and visited numerous gay bars in Fort Lauderdale. (Seriously, it was research.) He is an assistant professor of English at Broward College in South Florida, and has been a construction manager, a computer game producer, and a web developer – all experiences he uses in his fiction.


  1. If I understand G.B. Shaw’s statement correctly, I think the best thing that a writer can do to invite the reader into the conspiracy is to respect their intelligence, don’t patronize, condescend or dumb down your writing. Just write the best story you can, strive to entertain, enlighten and involve the reader.

    One of my pet peeves in writing is what I call “pulling rabbits out of a hat.” When some obscure character or clue is presented by the sleuth at the end of the story that comes totally out of the blue. The crime is solved, but the reader is left scratching their head and wondering if they missed a chapter or paragraph. The effort of reading and trying to figure out the ending are ultimately unsatisfying.

    That’s not to say you can’t have a plot twist that the reader didn’t anticipate or a character who is unsuspected turn out to be the bad guy. You want the kind of things that make a reader say “Wow! I never saw that coming” or “What a great twist ending!”, etc.. The difference is that the twist or reversal grows organically out of the story. The writer has set up all the clues and laid the ground work so that the reader doesn’t feel cheated at the end. Even if the reader doesn’t figure out the ending ahead of time, they feel rewarded because they have that “aha’ moment when all the pieces of the puzzle come together and make sense. The scenes and clues described earlier in the book suddenly become clear and the reader is now ‘let in on the secret’ so to speak.

  2. I think the key to inviting readers into the laity is to provide them with information– either “insider” or carefully cultivated information from multiple sources. I loved the TV show “Burn Notice,” for example, because each episode include information on spycraft. In my own writing I’ve done a lot to gather information, such as attending the FBI’s citizen’s academy, and I hope that it shows through in my writing.

  3. A movie or tv character can bring an audience in on something (if the acting is good) with a well=timed and very secretive, subtle facial reaction. We think–“hmmm he/she didn’t like that” even though they’re saying the opposite.

    It’s hard as authors to write that sort of thing without being really obvious. I suppose a character can see such a reaction but not understand until later– the reader might pick up on it though.

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