Genre tips

Today’s #AtoZChallenge: Psychological Thriller

A to Z Challenge asks bloggers to post every day except Sundays during the month of April on a thematic topic–nothing else. This year, I’ll be covering writing genres.

Today’s genre:

atoz-pPsychological Thriller


a suspenseful movie or book emphasizing the psychology of its characters rather than the plot; a sub-genre of thriller. In a psychological thriller, the characters are exposed to danger on a mental level rather than a physical one.

Tipsa to z

  1. Start the book with high action.
  2. Deeply focus on characters and their state of mind.
  3. Have your characters rely not on physical strength, but mental.
  4. These are often character-driven stories. Develop your main character well and deeply.
  5. The suspense in this genre is often from the use of POV, such as an unreliable narrator.
  6. POV is often 1st person or close third person so the reader can experience the thoughts and insecurities of the antagonist.
  7. Make sure every development is logical and well-planned, well-researched.

Popular Books

  1. Anything by Alfred Hitchcock
  2. Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  4. Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
  5. The Shining by Stephen King
  6. Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series
  7. Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane
  8. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James Cain
  9. Taxi Driver by Paul Schrader
  10. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

More P Genres

Click for complete list of genres

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. The sequel to To Hunt a Sub, Twenty-four Days, is scheduled for May 2017. Click to follow its progress.

61 thoughts on “Today’s #AtoZChallenge: Psychological Thriller

  1. Pingback: #AtoZChallenge: Genres–Prose | WordDreams...

  2. Pingback: Today’s #AtoZChallenge: Genres–Paleohistoric Fiction | WordDreams...

  3. What a great genre this is. Love the description. These are the books that keep me turning pages because I just HAVE to figure it out (the ending.) I think Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale and Joanne Harris’ Gentlemen and Players both fit this category. Talk about unreliable narrators and suspense!

    Liked by 1 person

      • First, about 12 years ago I started to write every title of every book I was reading and then as I remembered them, I added titles I’d read since I was very young. In many cases, I’ve included a brief description. Completely disorganized, not even in alphabetical order. Just last year and this, I began a new file so I can track books I’ve read in any one year. Surprisingly even to me, I’ve read far fewer books per year than I would have thought.

        You, on the other hand, probably have read a million books!

        You might really enjoy Setterfield’s and Harris’ books – a bit dark but so rewarding, and I wasn’t able to figure out either book’s conclusion.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Some of those titles you mentioned I’ve enjoyed as movies. That darkness can be a bit overwhelming at times though! I’ve always liked happy endings. I figured if I want dark, I’ll just read the news.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I read tons of books, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a psychological thriller – or, if I have, it was a long time ago. I like mystery, but I don’t like too much creepiness, and for some reason psychological thrillers that I’ve looked into have felt a little bit creepy. 🙂 (That might just be me, though.)

    Visiting from the A to Z Challenge. You can see my “P” post here:

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is my favorite type of book. I’m always n awe of what it must take to write a really good psychological thriller. They are timeless. Crime and Punishment is my favorite book. The great thing about these books is that you see real life in them. You think, “This could happen to me.” And for that time, you get lost in the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I like this trip through the genres, too, Jacqui. The most important tip in this genre, I think, is that the characters’ thoughts and choices have to be believable. If the characters do things that make no sense, I give up on the book. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am terrible with scary films but like scary books 🙂 haven’t read any lately, whatever I’ve read has been sometime ago, last I read was Stephen King story The Road Virus Heads North. Have read quite a few of the books that Hitchcock made into films later…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER. Nothing worse and scarier to find out you have been living with and married to one for 44 yrs and did not know how bad he was. Cruelty, increasing, screaming, yelling, at you 24/7 when home, thank goodness he was only home 45 days a year normally until 2010 when he changed it to more often and lied to me, telling me he was laid off again, when in fact he has quit again. It would take me 2 years after he left to find out that fact. He took early retirement with a pension in 2010, telling me he was laid off due to his age at the time late 50’s. It didn’t make sense to me as others older than he was still working, but not him. He sent his pension to an account and was stealing mail since 2001, and hiding his phone calls, and increasing his behavior of getting verbally crueler. Calling me every derogatory name there was none of which I am or ever have been, but he had to say it anyways to belittle me and be cruel as usual. He included that with his kids also, telling them to fu– off each time they spoke to him in person or on the phone, telling out youngest son since he was born in 1975 that he hated his guts, yet uses him, even his lovely daddy’s girl of a daughter and oldest son. Cruelty never stopped with us, every one was included in it also when he felt like it. He yelled all the time at work also, making a bag reputation for himself but was good at his job. He liked controlling people, he never controlled me completely, I just let him think he did. Well he is now living his is girlfriend since he left before June 2014 and having affairs with since 1999. Lying, conning, cheating,fatally flawed mentally challenged person.A person who was abused and said he would never would did, exactly 3 days after we were married. Like he said I was just a cow, heifer he bought to milk whenever he pleased while laughing. Thank goodness I finally got rid of him, so now he has to pay, one thing he got away with so far by lying in court.Be careful of who you married, mine turned into Jekyll & Hyde. Scary, I am lucky I survived his strangling me, drowning me, hitting me, OPP would do nothing about it for 44 yrs. still will not. That is bad, even when I worked for them for 20 years.


    Liked by 1 person

  10. Can I just say I love your theme for the A to Z challenge? Awesome. I want to go back and read all your posts…but I don’t know where to find the time. Maybe it will happen. *fingers crossed* This isn’t one of my favorite genres, but when you mix it a little more with some of the supernatural (Dean Koontz style), I’m definitely a fan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I read a lot of psychological thrillers because, well, I write thrillers. I don’t do the psychology, though. Mine is more action. There’s something amazing about being able to weave the mental stuff into an action-packed story.


  11. It’s a good thing I don’t take on these challenges – a post every day? I’d never be able to handle that!
    This is one of my favorites, the psychological thriller – action, suspense and that relief you get knowing it isn’t all happening to you!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is always a popular genre which takes great skill in planning and maintaining the tension throughout without burning out the reader. You’ve listed some great ones here! Jacqui…just hearing others talk about The Shining was scary enough!! I never dared read (or watch) it!

    Liked by 1 person

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