Thrillers should have the reader on the edge of their seat. The pace must be quick, there has to be a lot of action, and there should be suspense and plot twists aplenty.
The genre of Thriller is, for the most part, fairly uncontroversial, unless there is debate about the ability of a Thriller to also be Contemporary Literature. Thriller is an extremely broad genre, which encompasses written and televisual texts. Many sub-genres within the genre.
A Thriller contains certain characteristics. The pace must be quick, there has to be a lot of action, and there should be suspense and plot twists aplenty. Thrillers should have the reader on the edge of their seat, wondering if the good guy can get one over the bad guy and save the world (even though it's extremely rare for the bad guy to win, in your classic Thriller).
Thrillers are often set in exotic locations, although this isn't mandatory and certain sub-genres, like Crime thrillers, don't have this characteristic. The main characters are also traditionally men, with a career that leads them into the plot; spies, armed forces, elite government forces, and of course, chiseled good looks. Sometimes the protagonist is an ordinary citizen who is drawn into the plot, but he (and it's almost always a he) is usually square jawed and cut out for danger anyway. Women are being introduced as protagonists in contemporary thrillers to a limited extent, usually as law enforcement officers, but it's still a fairly male dominated genre. It has also been suggested that Thrillers require the protagonist to solve a current and pressing problem and prevent its occurrence, rather than chase down a criminal who has already committed a crime. The crimes, or evil forces, or bad guys, have to be grand scale as well. The Bill certainly wouldn't count as a Thriller, but Red Dragon certainly would.
Here at Illiterarty, we generally define a Thriller by the pacing, the level of excitement within the story, and the grand scale of the plot (or the attempt at those things). If it has thrill factor, then it's a Thriller.
This entry is written purely for informative purposes, so the readers of Illiterarty.com can better understand how we classify our books and can therefore make more informed choices about what to read. We do not claim to be an authoritative source. Quote us in essays/important documents at your own risk!
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