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Frederick Forsyth

Frederick Forsyth has packed a tremendous amount of action into his life and frequently draws on his experiences to bring his fiction to life. At the age of 19, he became the youngest pilot in the Royal Air Force, but then decided to follow a journalistic career, as 'it was the only job that might enable me to travel and keep more or less my own hours.' After three years as a provincial reporter, he joined Reuters and spent the next four years in Europe.

In 1965, he joined the BBC and was sent to the former Republic of Biafra to cover the war in Nigeria. What he saw of this brutal conflict affected him so much that he resigned, turned freelance and vanished into the thick of the conflict, only later emerging to publish the highly controversial 'The Biafra Story'. In 1969, he decided to use his experience as a Reuters reporter in France as the basis for a thriller. 'The Day of the Jackal' established him as one of the world's leading thriller writers. To date it has sold 10 million copies and was made into a major film in 1973.

Frederick's love of investigative journalism is evident in the considerable amount of preparation and research that he puts into a project, travelling the world and at one point risking his own life, posing as a South African interested in buying arms.

Frederick Forsyth

"I prefer to find out the truth about things" Forsyth says. "Rather than make things up, I like to focus on the details." He continues to write highly successful thrillers, which are of continued interest to filmmakers.

Frederick Forsyth is married and lives in Buckinghamshire. His interests include swimming, scuba-diving, game-fishing, travelling and reading. He was awarded a CBE in 1997.


What is your writing process?

How old were you when you first started writing books?

Everything is drawn on something I've seen...places I've been

Frederick Forsyth has travelled widely, both as a journalist and whilst researching his novels. Writing about what you know and your own experiences give what he later calls 'the ring of authenticity' to your work.

This is the very aim of Descriptive Writing.

How much do your own experiences influence your writing?


Knowing how to research.

Can you get the smell of a place; the atmosphere

Working to a deadline and researching a complex subject are the job of the journalist. Frederick Forsyth began his career as a journalist and he talks about becoming immersed in a subject and 'taking technical language and turning it into ordinary language'.

This is often the very aim of Argument/Discursive Writing.

How has your career as a journalist helped you with your ficton writing?


"People don't speak in pages" or (How do you write good dialogue in a book?)

For Frederick Forsyth, 80% is about the story. The remaining 20% is made up of character development, dialogue, descriptive passages, prose and style.

How does dialogue sound authentic?

This skill is needed in Narrative Writing

How do you write good dialogue in a book?


Using Devices

Frederick Forsyth spoke of the challenges of writing thrillers; his use of specific devices is very useful for aspiring writers.

This is the aim of writing: to create tension.

What are the challenges of writing Thriller books?


Pick the category.

This is the advice that Frederick Forsyth said that he would give to younger writers.

This is the art of knowing the purpose, audience and text type of your work

What advice would you give to younger writers?


"I wrote a book based on what I think really happened."

Frederick Forsyth gives an extraordinary account of how he came to write his novel, 'The Fist of God'.

This is the skill of imaginative development.

Which book did you find the most challenging to write and why?


"Up and on through..."

This was the answer given by Frederick Forsyth when RZL asked the question, 'Did you read as a child?'.

Frederick Forsyth said he began with Beatrix Potter and went 'up and on through' past Biggles and to The 39 Steps.

This allows us to glimpse his Reading Journey. Have you thought about yours?

Did you read much as a child?


Now answer this...

The writer wants us to feel that...?

What does Frederick Forsyth want for his audience?

How does he want us to feel?

What techniques, devices and stylistic features does he use to achieve it?

Now use your Masterclass skills in your coursework and exam preparation.

What is your greatest achievement as a writer?


Are you involved when your books are made into films?


How long does it take you to write a book?

What experience does a writer need to be able to write thrillers?