Monday, March 25, 2013

Making a Thriller

We continue with our story seed featuring Dick, love interest Sally, bossy Jane, jealous Ted, and the meteor streaking toward earth.

If we select the Thriller and Suspense skeleton, the overall story problem becomes the catastrophic danger that must be averted: the meteor.

Dick’s rivalry with Ted, pressure from Jane, and relationship with Sally create interpersonal and antagonistic obstacles to solving the overall story problem of the meteor.

The meteor itself is not an effective antagonist. A member of the cast, perhaps Ted or Jane, serves  as the person standing in the way of Dick’s successful resolution.

If we choose the Conspiracy Thriller, Dick fears there is a powerful group behind the meteor strike. Dick navigates the maze of conflicting information until he ends the threat to his world. Meanwhile, Ted and Jane make this difficult while Sally either helps or hinders.

If we choose the Crime Thriller, there is an element of mystery that Dick must solve. There is a criminal at the heart of meteor threat that Dick must expose. One of the cast members is the bad guy/girl. The rest just make his life complicated as he attempts to figure out who.

If we choose the Disaster Thriller, the impending meteor strike is real enough and the clock is ticking until it either strikes, misses, or is somehow headed off. This story emphasizes the very real potential for this type of disaster and how humankind can go about preparing for it. Sally’s neediness complicates Dick’s efforts while either Ted or Jane interferes and almost costs them their lives.

If we choose the Erotic Thriller, Dick has done something to attract crazy Sally. Her efforts distract him from solving the impending meteor strike problem. Ted and Jane help or hinder.

If we choose the Legal Thriller, Dick is the investigator or attorney attempting to prove his case against the negligible (or psychotic) Ted or Jane who allowed horrible things to happen. Sally can have a counter theory that makes Dick doubt he is on the right track.

If we choose the Medical Thriller, Dick and the rest of the cast face horrible medical consequences from a meteor that struck, perhaps an outbreak of radiation sickness or a strange virus. Ted or Jane may have unleashed a bioweapon, using the meteor strike as a decoy. Perhaps Sally’s crazy theory is proven after all.

If we choose the Political Thriller, Dick must save the country from corrupt government plotting or a threatened meteor strike by a rogue nation who has the capacity to change the trajectory of a meteor’s orbit so that it strikes a specific target. Ted or Jane represents the rogue country. Sally begs Dick to let someone else save the world and run away with her.

Stay tuned to the BRP for the exciting conclusion as we explore more Thriller and Suspense options.

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. I'm thoroughly enjoying these premises. My biggest question, though, is which version will you end up writing? ;-)

  2. Interesting to see how you can take a basic premise and take it in different directions. Very helpful series.

  3. Then there's the MTV Thriller:

    It's close to midnight
    Something evil's lurkin'in the dark
    Under the moonlight
    You see a sight that almost stops your heart
    You try to scream
    But terror takes the sound before you make it
    You start to freeze
    As horror looks you right between the eyes
    You're paralyzed

  4. What fun! Your inspiring nudges start the creative juices flowing. Seriously, I agree with Maryann that this miniseries of articles is a real eyeopener when it comes to developing very different stories with the same basic characters and plot. I once conducted a brief class for a group of about 12 writers, and I gave them a simple story line and one or two characters. They came up with 12 different introductions, all quite appealing hooks.

    Love this series, Diana! It's helpful to all of us, whether we're novices or experienced authors. And by the way, Dick, Jane, Baby Sally, and Spot were the stars of my elementary school readers back in the '40s.

  5. These are great (and probably why I don't write thrillers -- too many options and directions.) But it does show how a single-word definition of a genre doesn't always help let the reader know what to expect.

    Terry's Place

  6. Diana, I was just talking to some writers about how structure suggests genre yesterday. I'll send them out a link to your series!

    Tip and Mitten starred in my first readers. Via woof and meow, they respectfully request to be included from now on. ;)

  7. Very interesting. Also helpful to see how changes can make a big difference in the genre.

  8. Diana, I'd love to see what you can do explaining the Romance genre using this format! :D

  9. Oh, Diana, in so few words to cover so much territory. I am in awe.

  10. Very clever examples where you illustrate the different types of thrillers and how to achieve them!

    Morgan Mandel


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