The Thriller Genre

Thriller fiction is a literary genre that centers around continuous fast paced action in order to create an atmosphere of excitement and suspense. It tends to focus on the profession of the protagonist and how the protagonist must use his or her skills and knowledge to get out of a dangerous situation.

The genre covers a variety of professions and settings. Thrillers are very popular because readers are able to follow the action step by step allowing them to participate both emotionally and intellectually in the story’s complications.

There are many characteristics that make up a thriller. First, the story must be fast paced and compelling. The plot is propelled by continuous action in order to hold the interest of the reader. The action must place the protagonist in both physical and emotional danger. The story must also contain extensive details and technical language related to the profession or subject the plot is centered around. Character development is secondary to action and detail of the story. Protagonists are usually strong individualists who live by their own rules. Protagonists often work alone because they operate in a world filled with betrayal and deception. The protagonist must fight against a villain that is determined to wreak either personal, national, political, or international destruction.

Thriller fiction was invented by British crime writer and journalist, Edgar Wallace. Wallace wrote mainly crime thrillers in which the main protagonist was usually a special investigator that worked outside the police force. Some of his novels include The Four Just Men (1905) and The Green Archer (1923). Many writers copied Wallace’s style in stories published in dime novels and pulp magazines. The next writer to revolutionize the genre was Ian Fleming. Fleming invented the spy thriller and introduced his famous character, James Bond, in his novel Casino Royale (1953). The author Robert Ludlum continued to mold the genre to its present level with his novels including The Bourne Identity (1980) and The Bourne Supremacy (1986). His novels centered around conspiracy plots and the world of technology and espionage.

Due to the wide range of subjects and environments available to thriller fiction there are many sub genres. Thrillers involve the world and professions of law, espionage, medicine, science, international and domestic politics, technology, finance and adventure. Popular contemporary thriller writers include John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Robin Cook, Michael Palmer, Tom Clancy, and David Baldacci. Many of these authors’ works have been adapted to film which emphasize the use of action and suspense presented in the novels. Thriller fiction borrows certain elements from the genre of mystery, however, it doesn’t center around the solution of a crime or puzzle. Instead, it is a story of action that is filled with excitement, suspense, and danger.

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