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Announcing a new series!

Thriller Outlining From Fundamentals to Rough Draft.

If you’ve ever wanted to write a thriller, but didn’t know exactly what constitutes a thriller or how to even get started, you’ve come to the right place.

With this new blog series, we’re going to tackle everything an aspiring thriller writer needs to know to brainstorm, create, and outline the perfect thriller. When we’re done with this new blog series, we’ll conclude by launching a brand new new course for the vault titled “Thriller Outlining 101”.

If you have access to the vault, you can log in here.

If you need access to the vault, you can register for free here and get immediate access.


The Complete Thriller Outlining Series

As the series grows, we’ll publish links to each of the thriller outlining series steps below.

1. Thriller Outlining Series Introduction: Basic Thriller Fundamentals

2. Conceptualize Story Ideas

3. Developing Your Story Idea

4. Character Creation and Motivation

5. Applying Story Structure

6. Scene Building

7. Your First Draft

8. Thriller Outlining 101 Online Course

Now, back to the introduction of this series and for this post…



Basic Thriller Fundamentals

First, a quick definition of a thriller:

Author James Frey sums up the definition of a thriller quite well with this quote:

“A thriller is a story of a hero who has a mission to foil evil. Not just a hero—a clever hero. Not just a mission—an ‘impossible’ mission. An ‘impossible’ mission that will put our hero into terrible trouble.”

Now, allow that defines a thriller, it could also define another genre that is often mistaken as a thriller and that is the mystery.

Thriller and Mystery Genre Comparison

Mysteries are similar to thrillers, but they do have their distinctions. Both include a crime element. Both include a pursuit of the bad guy. Both include murder. However, there are two important distinctions between the two.

IN A THRILLER, the reader and sometimes the hero know who the killer is. A thriller is dangerous hunt often having the hero in peril once or twice in the story. You’ll often see a heart pounding chase scene in a thriller which is partially responsible for the name.

Jodie Renner quoted the International Thriller Writers Association in her book as defining a thriller “a genre in which tough, resourceful, but essentially ordinary heroes are pitted against villains determined to destroy them, their country, or the stability of the free world.”

IN A MYSTERY, neither the reader nor the hero know who the killer is. The hero is usually a professional or amateur sleuth uncovering clues and apprehending the bad guy. The sleuth is rarely in physical danger themselves, though it has been more common lately. The entire story drops clues for the reader that all lead to the bad guy.

James Scott Bell sums up the differences in his book Conflict & Suspense (suspense being a thriller sub-genre):

Mystery = Who did it?

Suspense = Will it happen again?

Mystery is about “figuring it out.”

Suspense is about “keeping safe.”

Mystery is a puzzle.

Suspense is a nightmare.


Basic Fundamentals

Just like any genre a thriller requires certain basic fundamentals that together make it a thriller. Miss any of the basics and you risk leaving your readership scratching their heads. As you’re likely aware, your readership is the expert. When they purchase a book expecting it to deliver a thrilling experience, you best make it so.

Here are a few of the basic fundamentals every thriller must include:

High risk and dangerous: The hero is forced into a high stakes game of life and death. There must be a situation from the onset that forces the hero to fight. The forceful nature could be a derivative of loyalty, or duty. From the very beginning, the hero is forced into action that includes conflict, speed, and plot twists.

Risk of outright failure: Leave the reader thinking there is no way the hero is going to win and you’re half way there in creating a great thriller. A thriller is a chess game and the hero is starting at a deficit, so deliver tough odds from the beginning to keep the reader reading.

The villain of all villains: In today’s thriller it’s not enough to have a bad dude be the villain in your thriller. Today’s readers require highly complex bad guys with several levels of complexity. When you think you have created the worst of the worst, spend more time and make them even more despicable.

A deadline: Adding a deadline or a ticking clock to your thriller increases the suspense, the action, and a sense of urgency for the reader. Try to start the clock as early as you can in your story and be sure to keep the reader abreast of the time as your story unfolds. For the best endings, the hero should save the day just before the clock strikes zero.



Next week we’re going to start conceptualizing story ideas for a thriller. To do this I will be recommending a few different techniques to get the most out of your time spent brainstorming. One, will require more time due to the technique, but it will also yield the best results.

If you want to get a head this week and start brainstorming ideas for a thriller, I encourage you to enroll in the Story Idea Generator Online Course that is located for FREE in the vault. This course will show you a proven method for developing a great premise for a thriller, the most haunting of villains, and the most heroic of hero’s.

If you have access to the vault, you can log in here.

If you need access to the vault, you can register for free here and get immediate access.

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