1. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    What makes a thriller?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by picklzzz, Nov 28, 2011.

    Hi again. Just posted another thread, but something I've been wondering about. Perhaps you could help. What exactly makes a story a thriller? I mean, how do you create suspense? I know this is a very broad question, but are there techniques that you use that you find successful? I know a cliffhanger does, and vague dialogue that hints at something, but what makes the pace thrilling? What other elements do you include when trying to write a thriller?

    Thanks!
     
  2. cheesecake
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    cheesecake New Member

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    It depends what kind of "thriller" you're trying to achieve. If it's horror, of course the bloody and violent will work. Also, vague. Be very vague about a character's background/history/bio but put enough emphasis that the character is important somehow to the story. Also, put up a lot of unanswered questions up front. Hrm, I can't really think of anything else... Any specific idea or plot you're trying to iron out?
     
  3. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    Not in particular. I'm just wondering what makes something thrilling? I have tried to write thrillers, and I don't think they come off the way I would like them to, where my heart is pounding and I can't wait for the next page or paragraph. There must be some elements that characterize this genre. I know it's a very general one, but the idea of having unanswered questions is perhaps something I can focus on. Thanks!
     
  4. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    I noticed this post yesterday but didn’t respond. I was hoping someone with expertise in this area would come along and answer the question. I guess I will give my two cents.
    I don’t write thrillers myself. But they are based on apprehensive events. It plays on people’s fears.
    I will just make up a little piece.
    “Ted. Where’s Emily?”
    “I thought she was with you.”
    “She’s not!”
    Martha looked under the bed. She then went to the closet. “She’s not here!”
    Ted quickly threw the blanket off. “What do you mean she’s not here?”
    Martha was already in the living room. “Emily?”
    Ted rushed to her.
    Her face was grave stricken.
    He knew she wasn’t mistaking.
    “Emily,” she cried out.
    Ted began walking to the front door. “Maybe she went outside.”
    Her face was turning white. “All the doors and windows are shut and locked.” She put her trembling hands to her mouth. “She’s only three.”
    He rang out, “Emily.”
    The phone rang.
    Neither one noticed for the moment.
    The phone rang.
    Martha was frantic. At a loss, she answered. “Hello.”
    The only sound on the other end was the shrilling cries of her little girl.
    She stood in shock.
    The caller hung up.
    With phone in hand, Martha fell to her knees.
    This is an example of a worst case scenario. This is a mother’s worst fear. As anyone knows, a mother will take her own life before giving up her child’s life. Thus, she will be the epitome of ‘hunting down’.
    At this time, what will be the set up? What is the motive? Is there a deadline? Will the child survive?
    Anytime you play on people’s fears, you have a thriller.
    But it’s not about blood and guts.
    You can extend fear to many platforms. Nuclear bombs, natural catastrophic events or something more common such as irreconcilable differences within a couple’s relationship (leading to murder).
    I still hope someone better answer’s your question. This is just my opinion.
     
  5. dizzyspell
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    dizzyspell Active Member

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    Suspense is key, I think.

    The promise of action will keep a reader turning pages more than action itself. For example, according to Hitchcock, if two men are sitting at a table when suddenly a bomb goes off, this will surprise the audience for about fifteen seconds. However, if the audience knows that a bomb is going to off at one o'clock and a clock shows them that the current time is quarter to, you get fifteen minutes of suspense.

    Hitchcock meant by this that the more informed an audience is, the more suspenseful a scene is. Of course, there's a point in which too much information takes away from the building tension. We can't know whether or not the men will survive, or we won't care. So, uncertainty + information = suspense.

    Because of this principal that an informed audience is a tense audience, a thriller will offer more insight into an antagonist's actions than a lot of other crime novels do. Often, a thriller has chapters written from the villain's point of view. These chapters inevitably raise questions in a reader's mind.

    Readers turn pages to find answers to questions the writer has posed. Questions like: Will they make it out alive? How will they survive? Why was it so important for the villain to buy that brand of cleaning product?

    Thrillers also, in my opinion, are almost always about achieving something. While other forms of mysteries or crime novels focus on the solving of a crime, thrillers focus on stopping one.

    Is there a kidnapping victim who needs to be saved? Is an assasination attempt going to occur at noon tomorrow?

    While another crime in the novel (normally at the beginning) may set this thwarting action in motion, most of a thriller's plot is dedicated to actions taken by characters to stop a catastrophe.
     
  6. Devrokon
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    Devrokon Senior Member

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    Non-stop suspense and gritty action.
     
  7. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    Thank you all for this great information! That really helps me shape my ideas a bit better. I read and watch a lot of thrillers, but it is hard to pinpoint exactly what makes them so thrilling, if indeed they actually are. I appreciate the story as well. I see how you mean about using the unknown to create tension and suspense. I will work on this and post something when I can.
     

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