Genres: Thrillers

By: Daphne M. Matthews of the Crazee Chixz

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The Thriller genre is so much fun because it keeps you on the edge of your seat (or bed) the entire time. From the first sentence, there is tension, intrigue, and excitement that draws the reader in and keeps them guessing as they turn each page. Thrillers all have conflict and suspense. There are always surprising twists and a lot to lose if something goes wrong at any point during the story.

Some page turns are exciting; some are scary. But every page turn is worth the risk. So, how do writers of the thriller genre keep the excitement up for 100,00 words? That’s a secret worth sharing.

Thrillers are plot-driven stories that have dark tendencies. They rarely have any comedy because they need to stay focused on keeping the reader interested in the main story.

In a thriller, every scene must move the action forward in a way that seems like a constant roller-coaster ride. Although bookstores often shelf them together, thrillers have one difference between mysteries and suspense fiction. Mysteries and suspense do keep the story moving and have a conflict throughout, but they don’t make you feel like your heart is pumping out of your chest through every page turn. With mysteries, the main character is primarily trying to solve a crime. In a thriller, the protagonist is trying to stop the crime before it happens as ping a bomb from exploding in the White House in Washington D.C. or from a second 9/11 from happening on the same date in 2031 but with four different targets using different modes of transportation for the bombs.

With thrillers, the reader usually knows who the “bad guy” is from the first sentence. There is no big reveal at the end of the book, no surprise, no whodunit type story to thrill the reader. The thrill with suspense is that it keeps your heart racing, your blood boiling, and your breath at a fast pace from the first word to the last.

Thriller genre stories can be based on any type of story, too. It can be a young adult novel where some teens notice a high school coach is holding a seasoned teacher hostage. This teacher has been missing for three weeks; these teens decide to save her. It can be a young family who sees a small child murdered in cold blood and steps outside of their element to protect this child’s family and push back against the responsible street gang to make sure the family stays safe and gets justice. There are so many possibilities.

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There are several subgenres within the thriller genre. They are:

  • Supernatural thrillers
  • Political thrillers
  • Espionage thrillers
  • Psychological thrillers
  • Action-adventure thrillers
  • Crime thrillers
  • Historical thrillers
  • Legal thrillers
  • Military thrillers
  • Domestic thrillers

So, how do you write these thrilling books to thrill your readers? Let’s look:

  1. Character development is essential no matter what genre you are writing. For help with character development, check out my extensive workbook available on our website.
  2. You must let the reader know what the cost to the protagonist is going to be if they do not win. However, it must be difficult for your protagonist to win and must be a high cost. Your reader can’t find themselves saying, “I could’ve done that.” (unless, of course, they were in the CIA).
  3. Start your story with action. The opening scene should be action-packed and be a pivotal moment in the life of the protagonist.
  4. The more twists that a thriller has, the better. You almost can’t overdo it in a thriller, but the twist needs to be a real twist and not something just thrown in to develop a twist so you can say you put one in. If you need a twist, your protagonist needs to make something happen – never let them sit back and wait for something to fall in their laps.
  5. The finale should be exciting and worthy of the last 160 pages! So, build your scenes, tensions, and characters to create a jaw-dropping climax. You want your readers walking away with their minds blown, not disappointed.
  6. When writing and editing, anything that slows down the story’s pace needs to be rewritten or completely cut.

So, the Thriller Genre is amazingly fun to write. However, not everyone can write a thriller, even with practice and patience. Don’t let that discourage you. Readers need all of us writers to have a different set of skills. They need us to not all write the same things. They need us to not all write thrillers. Honestly, though, if you want to write a genre badly enough, you will be able to. You will study that genre; read that genre, and practice that genre. So, chin up and pen down.

I’d love to see you all get started on your own manuscripts in your favorite genre. Let me know what that genre is as we move through these posts. Listen to “Chit Chat with the Crazee Chixz” on Buzzsprout or your favorite podcast on our YouTube channel and read our blog on and click on “Let Me Jot This Down!”

Published by Crazee Chixz

Crazee Chixz Productions was created by two long-time friends, Christy Flanary Smith and Daphne Williams Matthews to showcase the beauty and talent of upper east Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and northwest North Carolina. Their podcast, Chit Chat with the Crazee Chixz, will focus on the art, music, local food and chefs, small business owners and much, much more. Check out their new format by reading our "New Beginnings" blog post!!!!!

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