How to Recognise a Thriller Guest Post by Toni Pike…


If you are interested in writing a thriller, here are a few key features of that genre to help you on your journey. The thriller genre is always popular with both readers and filmgoers. Reading a thriller allow us to experience adventure, spills and life-threatening danger at no risk to ourselves and from the comfort of our own armchairs. Best of all, it provides the type of excitement that keeps us entertained, turning the pages from start to finish.

Mystery, Suspense and Thrillers

When choosing a genre, writers and readers are oftened confused about the overlap between the mystery, suspense and thriller genres. In an effort to resolve that, here is a brief summary of the often subtle but very real differences.


Mysteries involve a protagonist who is trying to solve a mystery. The reader goes on the journey with them, gathering clues but not solving the problem until close to the end of the story. This includes many popular categories such as crime and detective fiction.


Suspense stories are similar to mysteries, but involve more tension. The protagonist is confronted with some degree of danger on a regular basis. The reader may also be aware of the enemy and follows the story from both points of view.


Thrillers place the protagonist in great peril and provide excitement, danger and suspense from beginning to end. Readers follow the story through the eyes of both the hero and the enemy, and there will be a great deal at stake if the hero is not victorious.

The Top Ten Characteristics of a Thriller

There is a very good chance that you are reading or writing a thriller if the story has most of the following characteristics.

  1. The reader will generally turn the pages at a rapid pace, wanting to find out what will happen next. They find the story exciting and may even have physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate, perspiration across their forehead or mouth hanging open – just like some of the characters.
  1. The protagonist (the hero) is placed in peril early in the story and that increases in intensity until the big climactic scene. The writer often uses uses great creativity in inventing all sorts of dangerous situations, and perhaps a few methods of torture.
  1. There is always at least one important issue at stake and the hero must find a way to resolve it. This can be extremely important to an individual or a small group of people – but it often also involves a much bigger issue, such as assassinating an important leader, taking over a government or the destruction of the planet Earth.
  1. The reader has to believe that success will be almost impossible to achieve. Somehow, they must be amazed when the hero actually does come out on top. If not, then reviews may say that the story was predictable.
  1. Readers follow the story, from beginning to end, through the eyes of both the hero and the enemy. At first, though, the real nemesis may be hidden and the reader follows their story through one or more of his subordinates. When we do finally meet the ultimate bad person, we may get a surprise.
  1. Throughout the story, nasty and unexpected things happen to the hero, but somehow they are able to escape and that increases their determination to find the ultimate solution.
  1. As the hero’s many and various predicaments worsen, they get further and further away from their comfort zone – even if they are an action man or woman with plenty of physical, mental or psychic abilities. Think of Superman: he became almost helpless when exposed to kryptonite.
  1. Even when the hero is having a break from trouble, something difficult, scary or interesting is happening so that a reader will still keep turning the pages to discover what happens next.
  1. In the climactic scene, the hero finally confronts the nemesis and generally does something outrageous to defeat them. Straight after that, there is still another obstacle or two to overcome.
  1. The story should ideally finish with a resolution, where the hero at last has some time to relax and tie up most of the loose ends.

What do you think?

Toni Pike





51 thoughts on “How to Recognise a Thriller Guest Post by Toni Pike…

  1. I saw a nice infographic that the Ape reblogged – something along the lines of: in a (crime) mystery you know there’s a body and need to find out whodoneit ; in a suspense who may know who’s going to it but they probably haven’t done it yet/don’t know whether they’ll be caught, and in a thriller you’re never sure of either!

    Liked by 3 people

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