Photo by cottonbro studio

Quinn’s Dilemma by Bruce N. Ball is a good example of concrete mob and union intrigue in suspense thriller fiction—but what tropes and clichés should a writer consider for this genre?

Suspense thrillers are a captivating blend of suspense, tension, and mystery. They keep readers on the edge until the last page, always whetting their appetite for more until a very satisfying finish. 

Because it is often difficult to write suspense thriller fiction, there have been, in the course of its existence as a genre, multiple tropes and clichés associated with it. Writers can make use of them to better plot their stories and give them a solid grounding—and while tropes and clichés can be practical storytelling tools and should be treated as such, their overuse can often lead to predictability and gives the story a very formulaic and unsuspenseful structure. Now, if you are writing suspenseful thriller fiction and your readers are thinking that it’s a bit too formulaic and there is no suspense—you have a major problem on your hands.

In this article, we will be exploring the more familiar tropes and clichés in suspense thriller fiction and hopefully provide insights into how to take advantage of them effectively.

Tropes and Clichés in Suspense Thriller Fiction

Due to their popularity, there are plenty of tropes and clichés to be found in suspense thriller fiction, from the essential gripping and riveting atmosphere to the fringe addition of clowns (trust us, there is suspense thriller fiction that has clowns as the main baddies).

Here are some of the most common tropes and clichés in suspense thrillers:

  • The lone wolf is a popular protagonist in suspense thriller fiction. Typically male, the lone wolf is a former government agent, or military officer disillusioned with the system. The lone wolf takes on powerful enemies, making use of their wits and experience to outsmart and outmaneuver their opponents.
  • The conspiracy can be anything; it could be a plot to overthrow the government or to stop a shadowy organization from carrying out some other nefarious deed. Conspiracies are complex and challenging, meaning that they will take the protagonist’s all to unravel and usually involve many influential people.
  • The femme fatale is a beautiful and seductive woman who is often involved in the conspiracy. The femme fatale is used to lure the protagonist into a trap, and she can be very dangerous. In the end, she either becomes a treacherous enemy or a passionate ally.
  • The chase is a sequence of scenes in which the protagonist is being pursued by their enemies. The chase is often filled with suspense and excitement and usually culminates in a climactic showdown between the protagonist and the antagonist.
  • The last-minute save is a plot device wherein the protagonist is saved from death or defeat at the very last minute. The last-minute save can be a Deus ex Machina, but if done correctly, it can also be a satisfying resolution to the story.

Navigating Tropes and Clichés Effectively

By properly executing tropes, a writer can drum up suspense and excitement that keeps readers wanting more. Otherwise, you’ll have a very overused and predictable manuscript in your hands. To effectively navigate these tropes in suspense thrillers, consider the following strategies:

  1. Freshness and Originality: To avoid using stale tropes, you can infuse them with fresh perspectives and original twists. For example, instead of relying on the amnesia trope for mystery, explore the psychological impact of memory loss and the protagonist’s struggle to reclaim their identity.
  2. Character Depth and Motivation: Develop well-rounded characters with relatable motivations and flaws. Avoid creating passive protagonists who rely solely on external clues. For example, instead, make them active agents who are driven by personal stakes and emotional conflicts.
  3. Plot Complexity and Pacing: Craft a complex plot with multiple layers of intrigue and suspense. Avoid relying solely on isolated settings or MacGuffins. For example, instead, tie in social commentary, psychological depth, and unexpected twists to keep the reader engaged.
  4. Credibility and Plausibility: Ground the story in reality, even amid suspenseful scenarios. Ensure the characters’ actions and decisions align with their personalities and motivations.
  5. Emotional Resonance and Impact: Evoke genuine emotional responses from the reader. For example, instead of relying on cheap thrills and shock value, create suspense that resonates with the characters’ struggles, fears, and aspirations.

If you want a practical study on tropes and clichés and how to effectively use them for your narrative, Bruce N. Ball presents a masterclass in Quinn’s Dilemma, a mob and union intrigue suspense thriller

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This