8 Things To Keep In Mind While Writing A Thriller Novel

Shubham Kumar Shubham Kumar
Jul 2, 2020 4 min read
8 Things To Keep In Mind While Writing A Thriller Novel

What makes a book thrilling? Is it the story or the people in them? A story is nothing but taking a simple character and putting them into some unique circumstances.

Conflicts, tensions, unpredictable plot-twists, and a high-stake storyline is what defines this genre of thrillers. Some of the best writers use a beautiful balance of these traits, matched with perfect descriptions, to turn books into bestsellers.

Great books do not appear overnight, and it’s essential to know where you are going with the story before you start to pen it on the best book writing app on your computer. A compelling page-turner is pre-planned in your head (and on paper) many times before it becomes a book.

Given below are a few points to make this perfect thriller book.

Character First

You could write the best story with unique twists, but a poorly written character can flush all of that away from the story. In a thriller novel, the character is the most quintessential point of the story. A good protagonist; means a good story.

Be it Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe or James Patterson’s Alex Cross -- it is these leads that make the story such a page-tuner. The book will be a success if the reader can relate and resonate with the lead of the book.

Ensure you narrow down every trait of this person. From the outfits they wear, their childhood, relationships with others in the book, and much more. This person’s characteristics cannot conflict across the course of the book.

Ask yourself a few questions like: why is that person needed? What is his/her goal? How do they react to the conflict? And much more. Visualize every aspect of the person; draw a sketch if you deem fit.

Meaningful Twists

The twists in your story must come naturally to you when you sit in front of your novel writing app. If, at the time of writing them, you seem confused even for a second, it means you never thought this through.

The twist can be in the form of a new character, an incident, or a conflict. These conflicts must compliment the storyline and not be added simply for the sake of continuing drama. They must be “big” enough to create suspense too.

Leave Trinkets In The Story

A twist must also never come out of the blue. They must be breadcrumbs within the story that provides the twist with a sense of discovery; rather than an in-your-face-breakout.

One way to bring a twist in the story, a trick used by many writers, is to think of the worst thing that can happen to the protagonist. These actions will pull on the heartstrings of your readers and encourage them to keep on reading the book.

A Valuable Antagonist

A common misconception is that the antagonist is the villain or the negative character of the story. However, a potent antagonist is one who can set up as many roadblocks in the way of the protagonist. This person, thing, emotion, or element is what makes the story engaging.

The end of the story also comes from the resolution of the conflict with this antagonist. In some stories, the personality strength of the antagonist is a commanding driving force in the story, as John Doe in the movie Se7en or the Joker from the Batman series.

Compelling Subplots

While the main story acts as the engine of the plot, these will seem slightly bland or monotonous without a subplot. Subplots are another story that adds details to the main plot or provides an exit from the main narrative.

The sub-plot in some books can also be the personal challenges of the protagonist or other people in the story. While this is not a must, they are an excellent way to initiate excitement into the book.

Eliminate Slow-downs

Nothing kills a thriller like a slowdown in the pace of the novel. At no point in the book should a reader feel a dragged story with irrelevant exposition. This part is particularly challenging in the middle of the book.

You will mostly detect these errors in the editing stage of the book. You will need an extra pair of eyes to ensure that the excitement of the book, the arc of the character, and the story is not going off track.

Build-Up To The End

The final climax of the book is what you must spend many iterations in mastering. Few books can keep the conclusion to a crisp ending. The books usually tend to turn wordy or long at this stage.

Ensure your show-down at the end is to-the-point and a pivotal part of the book. Give your protagonist the time to resolve all the issues you created in the book to ensure your reader is delighted.

Use this time to merge your sub-plots or side-characters into the story. At the same time, this moment should also resolve the character arc of your protagonist and bring changes in the state of the character.

Are Your Stakes High?

The world of thrill encompasses the single more important factor of this genre. And thrill cannot come from low-stake storytelling. The single most crucial point to keep in mind is the need for a high-stakes story.

The more challenging the roles of characters, the deeper the storyline. This also makes it very hard for the readers to let go of the books since they are in constant need of closure. High-stakes help pace the book faster.


The legendary writer Stephen King once said: “The most important things are the hardest to say because words diminish them.” This will be our final learning of writing a great thriller.

Find a way to be descriptive in a way to show the scene, rather than tell the scene. The fewer dialogues you use in a book, the better your story.

While dialogues are essential to portray exposition and fuel the story, flooding your books with conversations makes the story slower and wordy. Bring out the best of your book by painting an image in the mind of the reader.

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