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How Do You Write a Psychological Thriller that Everyone Likes?

Are you in love with the enigmatic world of psychological thrillers—those narratives that skillfully play with the human mind, create nail-biting suspense, some shocking twists, and a gripping sense of psychological suspense?

Navigating the minds of the characters infuses the narrative with suspense and tension, creating a captivating suspense story. This genre flourishes when delving into depths, pushing the characters to their boundaries, and exploring the blurred boundaries of reality and perception. Establishing a gripping ambience is crucial as the story unravels through plot twists, keeping readers enthralled and eager to see what happens next.

This article will cover the structural elements of a successful psychological thriller. Whether you aim to write a good psychological thriller or are intrigued by the genre’s inner workings, this article will fulfil all your needs.

1. Understanding the Psychological Thriller Genre

Before diving into the topic, it’s essential to understand what a psychological thriller is. In simple words, the psychological thriller genre is a type of genre that delves into the darker side of human nature and internal conflict. It keeps readers engaged and guessing twists.

The thrillers genre delves into the psyche’s complexities using fear, suspense and unpredictability to captivate its audience. It is known for its ability to create tension and surprise twists, blurring the line between what’s real and how we perceive it. These narratives manipulate our emotions, making it an enthralling genre that keeps viewers on the edge.

1.1. Defining Psychological Thrillers

Psychological thrillers are a subgenre of psychological fiction that creates tension by exploring the human mind’s complexities. Typically, these stories feature ordinary people dealing with internal and external conflicts and being caught up in tense situations.

They employ structural elements to help them craft nail-biting suspense that captivates readers. A psychological thriller is considered successful when it keeps the reader engaged, dissolving the sense of reality and toying with multiple realities.

1.2. The Essence Psychological Suspense

Psychological thrillers focus on the character’s internal conflict and the dissolution of a reader’s sense of reality. They try to create a thrilling ride filled with mind games and shocking plot twists, such as “Gone Girl” or “The Silent Patient.” Unreliable narrators with excellent skills typically combine hidden and supernatural elements that leave the readers hanging on every word.

1.3. Human Nature and Inner Demons

The core of an excellent psychological thriller lies in the exploration of the characters’ minds and inner demons. As the story progresses, the reader starts questioning the character’s mental state. By weaving in external circumstances and conflicts, these novels keep the reader guessing what’s real and what’s not. A tremendous psychological thriller is considered when human nature is the canvas for a tense journey into the human mind.

1.4. Delving Into Criminal Psychology: Unraveling Motives and Mind Games

C.L. Mike Schmidt, the Lawyer at Schmidt & Clark LLP, explains the intricate process of delving into the darker side of human nature to create suspenseful narratives that keep readers engaged:

“Exploring the motives behind criminal behaviour, the deep-seated reasons that drive someone to cross the line add this layer of complexity that keeps readers hooked.

It’s not just about the crime but the twisted psychology behind it.

Unravelling a character’s psyche and exposing their motivations creates this anticipation and intrigue – readers start to question and guess, trying to unravel the mystery alongside the characters.

Then, there’s the psychological cat-and-mouse game. Whether a detective is trying to catch a criminal or a criminal is trying to outsmart the law, understanding the psychological strategies at play adds a level of strategic depth.

It becomes a battle of wits, emotions, and motivations, making the narrative more engaging. Readers become invested in the psychological chess match, wondering who will come out on top.

C.L. Mike Schmidt
C.L. Mike Schmidt

2. Crafting Engaging Characters

They are creating a compelling main character to write a successful psychological thriller. Also, the protagonist’s internal conflict is the story’s backbone, which pulls readers into their minds. It would be best to consider using an unreliable narrator to keep the reader guessing.

This character’s internal struggle will help your psychological thriller dive into the human mind, forming the foundation for a gripping psychological suspense narrative.

2.1. Creating a Compelling Main Character

As we all know, in the psychological thriller genre, the main character is often an ordinary person thrust into tense situations. While writing an excellent psychological thriller, develop your protagonist’s mind and portray their inner demons and darker sides. This will leave the reader questioning the main character’s truth and create a sense of psychological suspense.

How to write a psychological thriller novel

2.2. The Unreliable Narrator

A hallmark of psychological thrillers happens when unreliable narration is used. By dissolving a sense of trust and introducing hidden secrets, you can keep all the readers or viewers engaged.

Crafting an unreliable narrator can help you write shocking plot twists that leave the audience hanging on every word. To understand this in more depth, try reading a psychological thriller.

2.3. Character’s Internal Conflict

Your central focus should be on the character’s internal conflict, which is driven by mental states and human nature. Dive deep into the characters’ minds, reveal their inner struggles, and create tension in the story.

As your plot progresses, introduce multiple realities and even supernatural elements, if needed, to ensure a thrilling and suspenseful ride for your readers.

3. Building Tension and Suspense

Being able to create nail-biting suspense means you have made a successful psychological thriller genre. The plot twists and shocking revelations will add a layer of psychological suspense and pull the audience deeper into your story.

To write a psychological thriller, you must master the art of building tension and suspense. Let’s explore why it is needed the most.

3.1. Plot Twists and Shocking Revelations

To write an excellent psychological thriller, you must incorporate plot twists and shocking revelations that defy the reader’s expectations. Adding these elements to your psychological thriller will help your audience engage and question every character’s motives.

3.2. Creating Nail-Biting Suspense

Incorporating tense situations and external conflicts will help create nail-biting suspense in your psychological thriller. These elements could be anything from a hit-and-run accident to hidden secrets coming to light; you can structure your story to maintain a sense of constant suspense.

3.3. Reader Engagement Through Uncertainty

A significant hallmark of a psychological thriller is engaging the reader through uncertainty. This uncertainty makes the reader’s mind a playground for mind games, and the use of unreliable narrators will add a layer of psychological suspense.

This dissolving sense of reality will make readers guess and feel like they are in a mystery. To better understand this, you can watch Gone Girl.

4. Crafting a Captivating Plot

How to Write a Psychological Thriller?
Image by: Pexels

Another essential thing to remember while writing a psychological thriller is the captivating plot. Structural elements play a massive role in the genre’s success. The pacing, plot twists, and character development create a suspenseful narrative that keeps the reader guessing.

4.1. Structural Elements

Structural elements in a psychological thriller are the building blocks that make your story thrilling. Pacing, well-timed plot twists, and in-depth character development will all contribute to the reader’s engagement. A well-structured plot will help your readers hang on to every word you have written.

4.2. Multiple Realities and Hidden Secrets

Incorporating multiple realities and some hidden secrets into your psychological thriller can increase the chances of its success. Make sure those multiple realities and hidden truths dissolve the line between what’s real and imaginary.

These elements are also considered the genre’s core, creating nail-biting suspense and shocking twists that leave the readers guessing until the end.

4.3. External and Internal Conflict

External circumstances and the character’s internal struggles take centre stage in the psychological thriller’s success. Please dive deeply into the characters’ minds, exploring their inner demons and darker side.

Weaving external and internal conflict into the story can help you create a gripping psychological thriller that delves into the complexities of human nature and the mind.

7 Key Elements of Thriller Stories (Writing Advice)

5. Developing Unique Story Progression

You definitely would have watched some movies that have thrillers but aren’t unique in any way. Ask yourself, did you like that movie or book? Nodding your head left to write, I guess your answer is no. So, while writing a psychological thriller, make sure that you create a unique story progression, as this is the key to crafting an engaging psychological thriller.

5.1. Exploring the Human Mind

Psychological thrillers require a deep exploration of the human mind. Dive into mental states, internal struggles, and the character’s darker side. It will help you excel in portraying the complexities of the human psyche and creating a suspenseful and mysterious journey.

5.2. Shocking Twists and Sixth Sense

Incorporating shocking twists and a sixth sense into your narrative will help you keep your audience engaged, as this is important due to its role in the success of this genre. The sense of unpredictability and the uncanny will add more suspense to your story and leave readers questioning what’s real and what’s not.

5.3. Mind Games and Reader Engagement

Engage your readers by playing mind games within the script or book of psychological thrillers. Keep them guessing, dissolve their sense of reality, and challenge their perceptions. This level of engagement ensures that your psychological thriller is a gripping, suspenseful, and mysterious journey from start to finish.

6 Tips for Writing Thrillers (with Alexa Donne!)

6. Writing Techniques and Style

Mastering writing techniques and style is crucial in psychological thrillers while crafting a gripping narrative. However, it will take time for you to master them, but if you are new to this, you can only write as much as you can.

6.1. Choosing the Right Perspective

Selecting the proper narrative perspective is pivotal when writing psychological thrillers. Deciding between first-person, third-person, or an unreliable narrator can directly impact the reader’s connection to the main character and influence the overall suspense.

6.2. Creating Situations

Creating suspense situations in psychology thrillers is an art you can master by writing as much as possible. It involves creating a few situations while writing that keep the reader on edge. Your choice of language, pacing, and character dynamics will directly influence the atmosphere of suspense.

6.3. Learning from Successful Examples

Studying successful examples is crucial to excelling in psychological thriller writing, as it will significantly help you. Analyzing great psychological thrillers will help all the writers understand the craft, the plot twists, and the psychological suspense that captivates readers. Learning from these work’s examples can genuinely inspire your own writing and reader engagement.

Authenticity in Psychological Thrillers: Balancing Drama with Realism

Jacob Coyne, the Founder of Stay Here, offers insights into responsibly handling mental health themes in fiction:

“Regarding the portrayal of mental states and human nature in psychological thrillers, there’s often a mixed bag of accuracy. Many thrillers tend to dramatize and, at times, sensationalize mental health disorders, leading to a skewed public perception.

To enhance the authenticity of narratives, writers should prioritize research and consultation with mental health professionals.

This groundwork helps create characters with depth and relatable mental health struggles or conditions, making the storyline more convincing and educational.

For example, when collaborating on content creation, we emphasize the importance of accurate representation and its implications for stigma reduction.

A psychological thriller that successfully intertwines mental health realities with fiction offers not only entertainment but also opens up avenues for discussions and decreases the negative stereotypes surrounding mental health issues.

A case study to consider is the process behind creating the Stay Here Guides, which involves consulting mental health experts to ensure the information is accurate and relatable.

This same rigour can be applied to crafting psychological thrillers, grounding their thrilling elements in real psychological experiences and theory.

Moreover, incorporating realistic coping mechanisms and treatment paths can provide a dual service: keeping readers engaged and informed.

Many thrillers unfortunately either gloss over or inaccurately represent recovery from mental health issues; a more nuanced portrayal not only enriches the narrative but serves to educate the audience on the complexities of mental health.

For writers aiming to enhance authenticity, immersing themselves in real-life stories, participating in mental health training, and engaging with professionals and those with lived experiences can significantly enrich their narratives.

Lastly, as a mental health advocate, I stress the responsibility that comes with depicting mental health in any form of media.

Handling these themes sensitively and respectfully is crucial, ensuring that narratives do not inadvertently reinforce stigmas or misinformation.

By prioritizing accurate representation and empathetic storytelling, writers can contribute positively to the mental health conversation, fostering a culture of understanding and support.”

Jacob Coyne
Jacob Coyne

7. Understanding the Writing Process

Understanding the proper writing process is crucial. It involves various stages, each essential in delivering a suspenseful and captivating story. In this last section of the article, we will explore these stages of the writing process and help you start with your psychology thrillers.

7.1. Starting with the First Draft

In the first draft, immerse yourself in the psychological thriller genre. At this stage, write roughly the character’s internal conflicts, craft a compelling main character, and mainly focus on building the structural elements. The first draft will help you lay the foundation of your gripping narrative.

7.2. Editing and Revising

Once done with the first draft, the editing and revision stage is now. It will help you to refine your psychological thrillers. Make sure the story progresses logically, as it will help keep readers engaged and their minds in constant guesswork. A successful psychological thriller is born through the editing process. You can call your editing and revision a final draft once you are satisfied with your editing and revision.

Take Away

In conclusion, you must deeply dive into the human mind to craft successful psychological thrillers. This genre focuses on the character’s internal conflict and darker side, often with an unreliable narrator.

These stories can create tension through internal struggle and external circumstances, which keeps readers guessing and engaged. Add shocking plot twists and hidden secrets to help dissolve the storyline between reality and the unknown. To write an excellent psychological thriller, you must master the mind games that properly turn this genre into a suspense-filled thrill ride.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Which Genre is the Most Suspenseful?

The most suspenseful genre is thriller. It keeps readers on the edge of their seats with unexpected twists and tension-filled plots.

Q2. Why does one love Psychological Thrillers?

The reason behind this can vary for everyone. The most common reason could be that something about the complex character dynamics, deep exploration of the human mind, and unexpected psychological twists draws me to psychological thrillers. All these reasons combined might be enough to keep you engaged.

Q.3. What is the Best Psychological Thriller Ever Made?

The answer to this question can vary from person to person. However, classics like Hitchcock’s Psycho, Nolan’s Inception, and Fincher’s Se7en are considered the best.

Guest Author: Saket Kumar

Last Updated on by aashruti013


  • Faizal Khan

    Faizal Khan is a talented content writer with expertise in crafting captivating blogs and articles in both Hindi and English. With a passion for writing, Faizal delivers clear, concise, and engaging content that resonates with readers. His ability to seamlessly switch between languages allows him to cater to a diverse audience and create impactful pieces across various platforms. Faizal delves into diverse fields of topics, capturing readers' attention with his captivating content.

  1. As someone who has completed reading a plethora of psychological thriller books, I am really interested in writing an intruguing book which will grasp people’s attention. This article definitely gave me useful advices and ideas to embark on this journey. Thank you for helping aspiring writers like us!

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