How do you know it's a thriller?

brokenglassWould you recognise one on a dark, deserted bookshelf at midnight?

Generally, thrillers contain the following:

  • The hero(ine) faces death, or destruction of their way of life or sanity, either their own or somebody else’s, sometimes by accident, sometimes because it’s their job.
  • The ‘bad guys’ whether the mob, sinister government enforcers (see INCEPTIO 😉 ), amoral businesses or plain terrorists must initially be cleverer and/or stronger than the hero(ine).
  • The main storyline for the hero(ine) is usually a quest that cannot be ignored or put off and centres on a mystery that must be solved.
  • The hero(ine)’s point of view and motivation should be present throughout the book and focused – there is no room for wandering off-piste. Distractions can, of course, be thrown at the hero(ine)…
  • All action must be possible and realistic – experiment at home with a willing partner if necessary!
  • Characters must be realistic – writing an action-packed page-turning story does not excuse you from developing your characters properly in three dimensions.
  • The main theme that underpins thrillers is the desire for justice.
  • The hero(ine) and bad guy(s) may battle not just on a physical level, but on a mental one as well.

Anything I’ve missed out?

Find out more about thrillers…
The Big Thrill an ezine about thrillers
Thriller writers a list of authors
Goodreads popular mystery thrillers
Crime Thriller Girl


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is out early summer 2014.

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