Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Making a Thriller (Continued)

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.

If we choose the Psychological Thriller, there is a cat and mouse battle between Dick and Ted or Jane. Dick isn’t certain who the enemy is, but if he can’t identify him/her in time, the meteor strike erases the possibility, along with the entire cast. Sally's life could be threatened by the antagonist. Alternatively, Dick is forced to solve the mystery of the meteor strike location. Was it a space rock or something more nefarious? Can he prove it?

If we choose the Religious Thriller, Dick could be a priest or religious scholar. The plot involves a religious prophecy or the meteor is somehow tied to biblical history. Perhaps Dick finds the Arc of the Covenant actually contained a piece of meteor that bestows supernatural power to those who hold it. Ted or Jane acts as the antagonist intent on finding or keeping the power. Sally’s love for Dick makes his choice difficult to make. Will he have to sacrifice himself for the greater good? Is he willing to put her aside for the sake of truth?

If we choose the Supernatural Thriller, otherworldly elements are mixed in. The meteor strike could involve paranormal activity or superhuman power. Perhaps the meteor gave Dick superhuman strength or gave the antagonist the same. How does that change Dick’s relationship with Jane or Sally? Either Ted or Jane serves as the danger to one or all. Stopping the antagonist may require Dick to acquire superhuman strength of his own or just enough keen intelligence to find Ted’s weakness.

If we choose the Techno Thriller, the meteor strike takes on the flavor of technology gone awry. Perhaps Ted has figured out a way to steer meteors or a defense shield has been tampered with so humankind is no longer protected from meteor strikes. Dick must figure out a way to thwart Ted and save them all as Jane frets and Sally pines.

In a Thriller, the important thing is to convince your audience of the mortal threat to the cast. You can utilize twists and turns and choose any kind of ending you like: up, down, or up-down. Make the reader worry about the outcome and they will be thrilled.

For additional posts in this series check out:

Making a Thriller Part 1

Dressing Up Your Romance

Is It a Love Story?

Shifting Point of View

The Central Question

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. Diana, oh brilliantly evil writer, would you claim to condense some 1500 pages worth of my techno-thriller novels into a 63-word, tongue-in-cheek template? Yes? I am humbled. And inspired.

    Once again, though, I have been reminded of why and how I ended up in this genre. It's all about the "twists and turns and ... any kind of ending you like." This is a template that the late Richie Havens would sing the praises of: "Freedom!"

  2. I love how Thrillers thrill! They make the best movies too.

  3. Diana, you got me! Did we find a way to divert the meteor?

  4. Because questions like Chris's are so hard to answer, my guess is some thrillers that started out in different sub-genres end up as paranormals or techno-thrillers. Love this series, Diana! Will be sending confused clients here, over time, to sort out their story designs!

  5. This series has been so helpful. Thanks for putting things so clearly and concisely.

  6. Again, I do love these discussions. Fertile topics, creative minds, myriad plots -- these could keep a writer busy for a lifetime. Keep up the great posts, Diahna!

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