Last week, we talked about the difference between a horror and a thriller film. Let’s go a bit deeper and check out how you can write a great thriller screenplay.
Suspense thrillers, action thrillers and even supernatural or horror thriller films are a niche market, but they have a fantastic market nonetheless. A lot of people want to be scared and entertained or left at the edge of their seats wondering what will happen next.
If you’re a director, screenwriter or a video editor, it’s always a plus to know what key elements you need in order to make a thriller flick work.
1. Have Fleshed Out Characters and Motivation
Like any story, thriller films are composed of a good guy and bad guy. Characters in a thriller or suspense film are usually complicated. They’re not the typical squeaky-clean citizen, and the bad guy may have a good reason why they do what they do (or at least justified it in their heads.)
As these two forces face off, it’ll propel your story forward so it’s important each character is fleshed out. Make sure to a.) give them a clear goal; b.) have a clear WHY for what they do, c.) have a clear reason for helping or saving themselves or someone else, d.) have believable skillset to face their adversity.
2. Incorporate Action
Some thriller films start with the action off the bat. When done right, this can be a great opening sequence and a way to capture your audience’s attention. But you don’t have to do it this way. You can incorporate the action halfway through or in key areas. Just make sure not to overload your audience with irrelevant information from the start.
Showcase a key scene but leave the audience wondering why this is crucial, then slowly provide the answer in bits throughout the story.
3. Make It Clear What’s At Stake
Thriller films bank on what’s at stake. Of course, this can differ depending on the subgenre of the film where it can become highly character-specific. You need to answer what happens or what would be the consequence for your character (a group of people, a community or the world) in case the antagonist has his way.
4. Don’t Make It Easy For Your Hero
The audience needs to travel and grow with your protagonist in the short time they’re watching the film. You need to make them care about him or her and their situation. One way is to show them overcoming the odds. Place them in unusual circumstances and raise the stakes so when they overcome the issue, it’ll be more satisfying for your audience. Provide solutions in unexpected places or figure out how to make their lives even more difficult.
5. Have A Twist
Many thriller films rely on plot events. One of the best ways to keep viewers engaged is by adding a twist to the seemingly predictable situation. Be wary, however, since twists can also have the opposite effect. It might turn off your audience and make them feel like they’ve been had. Ask yourself whether the twist is “big enough” and “what will happen to your protagonist if the twist happens?”
6. Include A Great Climax
A climax is the scene where your hero and villain face off. Dedicate enough time to polishing your screenplay in this area to make sure you get it right. Some screenwriters find it helpful to write the climax first so they have a target point where the characters need to end up. Once you have this area fleshed out, you can go for a more inspiring or appropriate plot twist.
7. Make Sure to Have a Satisfying Ending
This doesn’t mean you need to have a happy ending to your story. Just make sure the ending fits well with the story you’ve been telling. Some feel as if they need to tie all the loose threads of the story while others would like to keep everything open ended, leaving the viewer to fill in the blanks.
A cliffhanger ending can also be a great way to leave room for a sequel. Whatever conclusion you come up with, just make sure it makes sense and won’t make your readers feel as if they’ve been cheated or just wasted an hour following your story.
Thriller films are one of the biggest genres in Hollywood. A lot of people love them and will go to great lengths just to watch such films.
If you’ve wondered what it’s like to help bring a thriller film to life while becoming a part investor in it, we have a special treat for you!
New Dawn Films is creating their second film called, “An Angry Boy.” We’re in the process of campaigning to get this film made, head over to the campaign page to find out how you can help.
You can also visit our YouTube channel, Scary Mysteries, for more shocking horror and thriller stories.