19: Thriller Genre Conventions
In today's episode, I'm going to walk you through the conventions of the thriller genre. I'm also going to show you how these conventions show up in the movie The Silence of the Lambs. Here's a preview of what's included:
[01:25] Thrillers combine all the criminality and suspense of a good mystery novel with the life and death stakes of an action or horror story.
[01:50] Readers choose thriller novels because they want to experience the thrill of trying to outsmart and stop the villain before he or she commits more crimes.
[02:30] Genre conventions are the character roles, settings, and events that are specific to a genre. They’re what help us writers write a story that works AND evoke emotional reactions in our readers.
[04:05] #1 – A crime that indicates that there's a master villain or a master antagonist on the loose.
[05:00] #2 – A victim (or victims) on the receiving end of the crime.
[05:35] #3 – A master villain or a master antagonist who is intent on annihilation or devastation or gaining power at the expense of others.
[06:35] #4 – True clues and red herrings for the protagonist to follow.
[07:25] #5 – A speech in praise of the villain.
[08:55] #6 – A MacGuffin (or the specific thing the antagonist wants).
[09:40] #7 – A shapeshifter who says one thing and does another.
[10:15] #8 – A ticking clock that puts some kind of deadline on the amount of time the protagonist has to defeat the antagonist.
[10:40] #9 – Multiple lives at stake including the victim's life and your protagonist's life (and maybe others, too).
[12:00] #10 – A false ending before the final conflict between protagonist and antagonist.
[14:00] Key points and episode recap.
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Links mentioned in this episode:
- Episode Freebie: Thriller Genre Conventions Checklist PDF
- Thriller Obligatory Scenes: The 6 Scenes Every Thriller Novel Needs (article)
- Thriller Genre Conventions: The 10 Things Every Thriller Novel Needs (article)
- Conventions vs. tropes: What's the difference? (podcast and article)
- The Story Grid book by Shawn Coyne that includes a great breakdown of The Silence of the Lambs as well as these genre conventions and obligatory scenes.
P.S. Did you know that I have a Facebook group just for fiction writers? In this private group, we talk about all things writing, editing, and publishing fiction. It's free to join and you can request access here. Hope to see you there!