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Writing A Crime Thriller? Here Are 8 Key Points That Will Enhance Your Storytelling


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The modern world is characterized by a large scale exchange of ideas and cultures among people all around the world. In such a time, novels have spearheaded the transfer of these ideas and cultures for centuries.

A popular genre under novels is crime-thriller novels. It is a synthesis between the crime and the thriller genres. Crime novels are mostly characterized by a story revolving around crime and bring the criminal to justice by law enforcement or vigilantes.

The thriller genre is characterized as focusing on stories where the driving elements of the plot are surprise, shock, dread, and tension.

You might wonder what the elements or points which make a great crime novel are? Or how to write a book that embodies the principle of both crime and thriller genres?

Every significant crime-thriller writer has his or her unique way of narrating a story that is vastly different from another. That being said, there are specific patterns that exist in all crime-thriller stories which any aspiring writer can take pointers from.

Given below are eight key points that will help you enhance your storytelling for your next crime-thriller story –

1. Read and Research

In every creative field, studying the names who lead the field has often been a passage for most of the greats. Writing is no different; studying the greats in the area helps you understand different perspectives and approaches to storytelling and outlining work.

This not only helps to inspire budding writers and set benchmarks for what is considered ‘good work’ but also prevents unknowingly copying work which has been done before. Being original and bringing a fresh perspective to approaching the genre is often what causes the sensation around a writer.

The other side of this is to research thoroughly. From examining the setting for your story and scenes to studying how actual police investigations proceed are essential while trying to sell the story to your reader.

Often great writers like Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle would read subjects like forensics, ballistics, tobacco powder, general chemistry, art, criminal psychology, and architecture to make their stories more sophisticated while also making them believable.

2. Build a Believable World

Often great fiction writers are praised for painting fictitious worlds so real that the reader is transported there. Writers often set their stories in the real world in very lived in places like London, New York, or Hong Kong because of how diverse and packed they are.

Such settings help in providing emphasis on how different structures in society would prove to be factors of motivation for the crime and act as a hindrance to investigating the crime.

To build an exceptional crime-thriller, the location plays a vital role in setting the mood, adding to the character’s background, providing clues and hints, and giving a time frame for when the story is playing out.

3. Create a Likeable Protagonist

From Sherlock Holmes to Hercule Poirot, the protagonist is a crucial and recurring element that seems to be part of almost all great crime-thrillers. The protagonist mostly acts as the pivotal character through which the reader thinks.

It is often when the protagonist is faced with life-threatening tasks that the feeling of suspense and fear runs high among readers. A solid backstory allows the protagonist to have a sense of purpose and motive for their actions throughout the story.

Building a protagonist with flaws and their doubts and demons, which they fight as the story progresses, allows the writer to even convey more critical messages about society and morality at the same time, making them more relatable to the readers.

4. Avoid Black and White Narratives

No person or circumstance is one-dimensional–all good or all bad. Your characters and plot arcs should be multi-faceted to make for a more realistic and compelling read. An easy way to achieve the good vs. evil dichotomy while preserving the grey areas is to follow the evolve/devolve rule.

Simply put, both the protagonist and antagonist start from a relative commonality of circumstances ( the middle point). As the story progresses, the former ‘evolve’ towards the right side while the antagonist continually ‘devolves’ into chaos and evil.

5. Keep The Story Flow Steady

A good thriller story is like a roller coaster ride between the average slow-paced lows and the high-stress conflict highs. That being said, too much of either of the extremes will cause an oversaturation leading to an unpleasant reading experience.

An excellent way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to keep the story moving from one scene to another. When you move from scene to scene without unnecessary diversions, there is a smooth transition between the emotional highs and the lows of a story.

6. Build a Challenging and Complex Crime

The crime is the center of the story. A well-constructed crime is essential for an account without plotholes. The crime should also be in harmony with the state of the criminal’s psyche. The criminal’s character, backstory, ideology, and motives should all translate into the crime.

The crime, as well as the crime scene, should be looked at as scattered pieces of a puzzle that are interconnected and need to come together as the story progresses. Very often, it is the genius of the crime itself, which makes the story a classic.

7. Keep the Suspense Alive

The ability to keep the reader from realizing the answer was right before them, making them completely astounded as the final reveal takes place, is something of a hallmark of great thriller stories!

As a writer, you should deploy methods like misdirection and build-ups to sway the reader’s attention from minute details that you lay throughout the story for the final reveal, almost like a magician does with his audience.

8. Outline the Story and Vet for Mistakes

Learning how to outline a novel or a story is of utmost importance while planning to write a crime-thriller. Unlike other writing genres, crime-thrillers are all about building an intricate and complex crime and spreading crumbs and evidence leading to the final reveal.

To avoid plotholes, the story needs to be well planned, and all elements should be placed purposefully. The planning process includes character development, environment research, character interaction, themes, and plot progression.

It is also advisable that while writing, you should focus on flow, build the story, and vet for mistakes once the first draft is done.


There isn’t a blueprint or recipe for writing the perfect crime- thriller. Writing a book is a journey, and different people approach it from different perspectives. The liberty of art allows fresh approaches to genres that each writer should strive to achieve.

In the end, a crime-thriller is all about that combination of goosebumps, tears, screams, and spending late nights speculating what will happen nexxt.

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  1. mohsin says

    Nice Post Bro…………….
    What are the 5 elements of suspense?
    5 Elements of a Suspense Novel
    Conflict. Every novel needs conflict, and it’s also incredibly important for building suspense. …
    Pacing. The pace of your novel is another important component to building suspense. …
    Red herrings. Red herrings are clues in your story that mislead readers. …
    Atmosphere. …
    High stakes.

  2. Shaman Ali says

    Very source able for ever.

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