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10 Quick Tips About Writing Thriller Screenplays

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1) Thriller Screenplays THRILL …

We all know this about thriller screenplays … So how come MOST thrillers in the spec pile *feel* like dramas with a bit of running about in?? Because they LACK TENSION! So keep tension in mind, ‘cos you’re gonna need it! MORE8 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Thriller Screenplay DEAD

2) … And they thrill from PAGE ONE!

So it used to be that scribes got ten pages to pique a reader’s interest … Not any more! You gotta hit the ground running and kick it off from page one – or bust! Sad maybe, but true … The good news is, you can do this ANY WAY YOU WANT! MORE10 Tips For The Perfect Ten (Pages)

3) Thriller is ANTAGONIST-LED

In comparison to pretty much ALL other genres, Thrillers place the antagonist at the HEART of the action, drawing the protagonist into his or her “Evil Plan”. MORE: 7 Reasons We Love To Hate Villain Characters

4) Thrillers are MARKETABLE

Thrillers are versatile, which makes them marketable. You can write and rewrite with the current demands in place, meaning Thrillers are a MUST for your portfolio. If they’re low budget, as well? EVEN BETTER!

5) Thrillers don’t need GIMMICKS

If Thrillers are about tension (and they are), then you can write your story ANY WAY YOU LIKE, you don’t need any big gimmicks to sell your story “off the page”, so Thrillers work brilliantly at super-low budgets. Think instead 1-5 characters (18 yrs+), 1-3 locations (preferably interiors). BOOM!

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6) Low Budget can still mean HIGH CONCEPT

Just because you’re writing a very low budget movie does NOT mean it has to look crappy. With the advent of new technology and techniques, a film can look a literal million dollars, even when it was shot for a tenth of that budget! Just don’t fall into the “usual” pitfalls and get creative! MORE:

Writing, Selling & MAKING Thriller Screenplays

10 Lessons Of Making A Microbudget Movie

How To Write Your Script To A Microbudget And Not Make It Look Microbudget On Screen 

6 Ways To Make The Most Of Low Budget Visual Effects

10 Ways To Scupper That Micro-Budget Film

7) Thriller is NOT HORROR

I can’t stress this enough – just because Horror and Thriller might *seem* similar, doesn’t mean they ACTUALLY ARE. There are significant differences! Find out what they are BEFORE you start writing, or you might end up in a whole world of pain! MORE: What’s The Difference Between Horror & Thriller?

8) Thriller keyword: MYSTERY

Mystery is one of the key elements of the Thriller genre … SOLVING that mystery is of utmost importance, but that doesn’t mean “backending” all exposition to the ending, otherwise it ends up rather “Scooby Doo”! MORE: How Does Exposition Work? AKA 9 Common Exposition Qs Answered

9) Thriller keyword: CHASE

If your protagonist has to solve a mystery, think about throwing OBSTACLES in front of him or her … And then making that character have to CLIMB OVER those obstacles, with each one “bigger than the last”! This contributes to what screenwriting gurus call “rising action”, leading your protagonist to a big “showdown” with the antagonist!

10) Structure is EVERYTHING!

Structure is of utmost importance in the Thriller genre. If you want to write one, you have to NAIL structure right down and know exactly what you’re doing … otherwise that precious tension, mystery and chase will be LOST. So however you understand structure, get it done and get it on the page! MORE2 Things ALL Writers Get Wrong In Early Drafts

Want more industry insights?

It’s hard to believe, but B2W’s book, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays will be TEN YEARS OLD in 2023! Because of this, I have updated the content for the 2020s, including new info and case studies, including TV series. It equates to a whopping extra 100 PAGES!!!

Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays: From TV Pilot To Feature Film is OUT NOW!!

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