Five Elements of a Great Action-Thriller

by | Jul 7, 2021 | writing tips | 0 comments

Writing an action-thriller novel requires certain elements that make your work explosive and riveting.

The Secret Empress by Frank Heller is among the recently published action-thrillers capturing our attention because of its unique plot and fast-paced action scene. Today, we will take a look at some of the elements in the novel, the same elements that make up a remarkable action-thriller.

Create a main character that is convincing. Every great action-thriller centers on a strong protagonist. Some have skill-sets and training that makes them capable of defending themselves against enemies. Some are intellectually gifted, and their wits help them make it through. In Frank Heller’s action-thriller, we know Joe from The Secret Empress on skills of his former life as a CIA agent. Although he is introduced first as a businessman, we discover his past job and capabilities little by little. As he evades the enemies, we learn of his combat and sharp mental skills. This makes Joe not only a strong character but also a convincing protagonist.

Make the stakes quite real and so relevant. A plot can make or break the success of your future action-thriller. It is essential to bring to the table a plot that readers can identify and relate to. Many novelists are so consumed with the action and scenes part that they sacrifice the narrative. A great action-thriller possesses values at stake, and they reveal them to readers in a timely and well-organized set. Freedom, justice, preservation of human life, and democracy are some of the strong values you can incorporate in your story. A hero needs these values for him to rescue or uphold against the villains who threaten them.

Make sure it’s fast-paced and high octane. No one wants a thriller that contains lengthy and tedious dialogues. One great asset about action-thriller writers is that they can present you with a complex storyline without writing lengthy paragraphs describing each aspect of the story. Even political thrillers with action stuff are never dull. Thrillers are supposed to be fast-paced, always on the go, and filled with explosive action scenes, literally and figuratively speaking. These are what the readers love action thrillers for. So don’t disappoint your readers by presenting a David Copperfield narrative. Also, be creative with your scenes and don’t settle for clichés. 

Villains should have the upper hand at first. Presenting the balance of power can be a tricky aspect in creating your action-thriller novel. You cannot paint the protagonist alone as having all these skills, resources, and strengths. In the same way, the villain cannot be indestructible or come off as a weakling. Both the hero and the antagonist(s) must be formidable in their way. They should be cunning, complex, principled, and compelling. The hero is only as great as the odds and challenges they have overcome. Giving the villain a slight upper hand and providing the hero with obstacles present a great dilemma and ensure a great story.

A satisfactory climax and end is a requirement. You have a great antagonist, a formidable antagonist, a relevant conflict, and a plot. Now all you need is a super climactic scene, a plot twist that will create a rivetting and satisfactory ending for your action-thriller. After all the roller-coaster ride and power struggle, it is time to produce the most critical part of your story. How you end your narrative will significantly determine the value of your work.

In many cases, novelists employ the red herring tactic to create a surprise. A great climax and ending will leave your readers in awe of your story. More importantly, readers will want to read your book over and over again.

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