Characteristics of a great thriller

Publishing is trendy—as in, it’s an industry dominated by trends, like pretty much every other industry. It’s not hard to understand why. Demand for books in a certain genre increases. Publishers acquire more books in said genre. And right now, thriller is that genre.

Thrillers have always sold, but Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL hit the big screen last year and demand for the genre grew. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins enjoyed some serious pre-publication buzz and came out of the gates at a full sprint this January. It’s been at, or near, the top of all bestseller lists since. Renee Knight’s debut, DISCLAIMER, comes out in a week, and it has drawn comparisons to both GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. And on the eve of the London Book Fair this year, a professor at Oberlin College saw his debut thriller go for 7 figures in a two-book deal!

So clearly thrillers are hot. But what makes them great? What differentiates a top tier thriller from an average one? What do you think? Sound off in the comments.

Oh, and if you think you’ve written a top tier thriller, do send it my way. I wouldn’t hate reading it…

2 Responses to Characteristics of a great thriller

  1. Mat Clarke says:

    I was looking through the agents that I would like to sit opposite at the coming Thrillerfest 2015 to pitch my work, and I saw this post. So yes, why not make a comment!For me, thrillers are more about the protagonist being hunted or chased. It may not be to kill, but it is to take something something from them (maybe even their freedom).A thriller is also a story that moves quickly. More importantly, it is a story that starts with the pace already at a jogging or running speed. Which is why I removed my first three chapters that covered the why, and have now sprinkled some of that back into the remainder of the chapters.A thriller will also have enough sub-plots to keep the reader interested while the main plot continues. Thrillers are not books that put you to sleep. They are stories that don\’t allow you to put the book down.A thriller can encompass many aspects, suspense, mystery, action, etc. Although, to be a product that can be sold well, it needs to keep to a classifiable area. This doesn\’t mean that it can\’t be a mixture of sub-genres, it\’s just that a reader of thrillers can\’t be thrown to much out of their safe zone (unless you\’re an established author). It\’s commercial fiction after all.

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