Thriller fiction is basically any type of short story, play, teleplay, film or novel that is suspenseful in its nature. The thriller genre includes many sub-genres, such as crime, spy, legal, medical and psychological. Thrillers typically involve a hero or heroine battling a villain or villains in order to achieve a goal, rescue someone or find the truth about something. A fast pace, exciting plot and a building up of tension are the key requirements of riveting thriller fiction.
Like the mystery genre, the audience of thrillers should be always be left wondering what will happen next. Unlike mysteries though, the reader or viewer may know exactly who the murderer or villain is, and maybe even right from the beginning of the story. In thriller fiction, the antagonist may be extremely evil, such as in a horror film, yet in most cases this villain isn't supernatural.
Rather, the villains fit with their sub-genres, such as a seemingly soulless or remorseless lawyer in legal thriller fiction. The plot revolves around a battle between the villain and the hero of the story. Since the pace must be fast in thrillers to keep the story exciting for readers or viewers, the action in this type of genre is often nonstop. Yet, thrillers may or may not contain a lot of physical action such as car chases, fights and the like. Unlike action-adventure, the tone of thrillers is usually more poignant, psychological or even melodramatic in that the excitement can be emotional rather than physical.
For instance, in a crime thriller, the villain may be a murderer playing a "cat and mouse" game with the hero who is the police detective trying to catch him. A certain tension can often be felt when watching film or television thriller fiction. It may be what is often described as "sitting on the edge of your seat," meaning that viewers can be so caught up in the exciting storyline of a thriller movie that they may, without even realizing it, lean forward as far as they can toward the screen.
Similarly, readers of a well-written thriller novel may feel unable to put the book down due to anticipation about wanting to know what will happen next in the plot. For example, in a medical thriller, doctors may be battling the effects of a plague released by bio-terrorists to stop the virus from spreading before it's too late and people die. In some especially suspenseful thriller fiction, there are several plot twists that totally change what viewers may expect to occur before a resolved ending takes place.