View Full Version : What exactly is thriller?

07-23-2011, 06:50 AM
I'm sure I know what the horror genre is, and I'm pretty confident I know what constitutes mystery. I'm a little foggy of thriller. What exactly would that be?

The main reason I ask is I think my current novel might fit as well under that genre as it does horror, and there appears to be a lot more agents for thriller fiction than horror fiction, but before I go about refering to it as a thriller I want to be sure I'm accurate.

07-23-2011, 09:01 AM
That which thrills.

Which will vary considerably, dependent on the reader. Me, I like quietly nasty suspense, and flashy elaborate techno"thrillers" tend to bore the hell out of me. Both in books and movies. I absolutely hated the movie Air Force One, for example. It featured great actors I generally like (Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman), but was so preposterous and infatuated with random and often stupid action that whatever "thrill" value it purported to have was killed off early on.

The single novel that tops my "thriller" list, as one that I simply could not put down until I had finished it, is Watcher in the Shadows, written by British author Geoffrey Household more than a half-century ago. A scary, evil, unpredictable duel between an ex-spy and a personal arch-enemy he didn't even know existed, and can't identify. No car chases, no giant glitzy stuff, just dark, grinding tension, and dirt (literally). The highest level of technology used is a primitive bow-and-arrow.

But that's just me, I suppose. Tom Clancy sells a hell of a lot of the other kind of stuff, somehow.


07-23-2011, 09:54 AM
I've always thought that a mystery is a story where you are trying to find out whodunnit. A thriller is a story where you may already know who commited (or is about to commit) the foul deed; the question is whether the protagonist can stop him. For example, a killer may discover that the protagonist is on to him, so he's out to murder the protagonist before our hero can prove the guy is the killer.

A good example is David Baldacci's Absolute Power.

Most of the show 24 is thriller.Sutherland's character isusually in a race to prevent something disastrous from happening.

07-23-2011, 11:34 AM
Thrillers have very specific conventions, but not all are the same. You can have spy thrillers like The 39 Steps or James Bond, historical thrillers [which I write], psychological thrillers etc.


Linda Adams
07-23-2011, 02:21 PM
This was posted by James Scott Bell after Thrillerfest: http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2011/06/thriller-must-haves.html

07-23-2011, 04:06 PM
I actually wrote a blog post about this back in 2008 (the differences between mystery, thriller and suspense). Was very surprised at how easy it was to pull up on Google. :D