Tucking the Thrill into a Thriller

Hey—yay—it’s Rey again.  Linda accepted an invitation to go surfing on Maui for a few days, so I’m taking over the last genre/sub-genre review post: the thriller.

Thrillers are popular page-turners—and, like mysteries, provide a lot of curving trails, and curveballs.  The POV can come from different characters, like the protagonist or even the villain.  They can be written in different styles and be dark or droll.  Types of thrillers: mystery, psychological, crime, romantic, action, political, military, legal, and even supernatural, paranormal and sci-fi, to name a few.

Okay, so we know there are various types, but what is a thriller?  In a nutshell, it’s a story that’s full of action, moves quickly, has friction and conflict and tension, contains suspense and sudden, surprising turns and kinks.  Scenes push the plot forward and place readers on that proverbial exciting but tense roller-coaster ride.  You know something else?  It may not necessarily revolve around the protagonist solving a crime but him or her preventing one from happening.  Or readers learn the nasty, ugly secret (crime, mystery, event, action) right off.  Sweet twists, huh?

It goes without saying that you need a strong protagonist, as well as robust characters, and a believably bad villain . . . or, maybe not (depends on your storyline and what the villain is all about).  Bring those characters to life.  Make certain you include some [important] history, likes and dislikes and idiosyncrasies; what makes these folks tick?  Consider what’s at stake—for all characters.  What motivates them?  Why would they pursue one specific action/response over another?  What’s in it for them?

Throw in a few monkey wrenches.  Don’t make anything overly easy for your main character(s).  Let them vigorously track solutions and ways out.  Conflict, tension and friction are vital—you want those unsettling twists and turns, but not so many (or so minor) that you muddy the storyline or have readers scratching their heads and going “huh?”.

Settings and backgrounds, missions/quests, must be detailed enough that readers can visualize them.  In fact, every component should be crisp and clear; again, you want to avoid any head-scratching (but, then, this holds for any book/genre you decide to write).  And part of this is pacing—keep it swift and uncluttered with unnecessary information.

Research, too.  Get a feel for events that would work in a thriller (espionage comes to mind) and use them, fictionalize them.  With thrillers, there’s that extra layer of excitement (events and actions) that goes beyond simply following clues to corner that crafty culprit.

WP111thrillerClipartdotEmailGrab readers from the get-go.  Start with a sinister or shocking—riveting—act.  Add action regularly, but don’t just shove it in there for the sake of it.  Make sure it makes sense, that it moves the plot along, and that it isn’t so fantastic or abundant that it becomes a bit of a bore.  And don’t forget to insert some suspense; hint at upcoming threats and risks.  Create anxiety.  This builds on that layer of excitement, which urges readers to keep—you got it—reading!

Add questions along the way—through narration or dialogue—so readers are as curious as the main character(s) and yearn to learn the answers.

Lastly, make that ending dynamic and convincing; it’s a crucial moment in your book.  It shouldn’t be limp or expected (and, if it were, your readers likely gave up reading long before they reached this pivotal point).  This is where can tie all your loose ends together or, if you’re planning a sequel, leave some things open to the imagination . . . and the sale of your follow-up book.