Anne C. Miles > Writing > Heists

Book Two has a heist in it. Let’s get that out of the way. There is one.

Heists are fun to write. I’ve been looking at various heists throughout literature and seeing them everywhere. I love the shows “White Collar” and “Leverage.” They have gorgeous heists in them. In movies, the heists we see are notably The Italian Job and Ocean’s Eleven. In books we see Dresden pull off a heist in Jim Butcher’s Skin Game, and I’ve heard there is a heist to be found in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn.

He talks about it here.

Ok. So The parts of a heist are

The Leader – you’ve got to have a strong protagonist, who is there to lead the team and convince them that they need to do this job. They need to be charismatic and the most memorable are suave and charming too.

The Team – the opening of the story is about meeting the team and understanding the skills they bring. The leader calls on them one-by-one to bring them on-board and they can’t do it withoout them. There’s the safe cracker, the driver, the hacker and the front of house distraction (usually the token woman), but you can devise your own experts. Each member of the team needs to have a key role, which makes the heist work.

The Motivation – your leader needs a compelling reason to pull off this job. It could be for that final haul, so they can go into retirement or just because the newspapers say it’s theft-proof and our hero wants to prove them wrong. And the team needs to have a reason to risk it all too

The Plan – every heist has the scene where the leader tells the team the plan and they show how their expertise will make the impossible possible. This is where the reader understands the hurdles and the risks, allowing you to build tension.

The Fake – then it’s time to put the plan into action, but because the reader knows how it should play out, you need to mess with their expectations. Build tension for the hard parts, only to have them get through it with ease and then sock ’em with a surprise fail or a consequence they hadn’t planned for. Keep the reader guessing and put the team through hell.

The Ending – most heists end in success. I can’t think of one that doesn’t, off the top of my head. Coming back to The Italian Job, they get away with the gold, but they’re literally hanging off a cliff at the end. So you can throw in some ambiguity, as Christopher Nolan does in Inception. The heist is successful, but something’s not quite right. Or you can just have it end on a high, with everyone enjoying their ill-gotten gains. It’s up to you.


Anyhow. That’s what I’m working out right now. Only instead of a safe cracker, a driver, a hacker, and a distraction? I have Spinners. And a prince. And Gisle, who really isn’t heist material. It’s kind of hilarious.

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.