The Thriller Genre and The 5 C’s

The 5 C’s of Writing A Great Thriller Novel

After reading an article on The 5 C’s of Writing A Great Thriller Novel: See Original Article Here, I began thinking about my first thriller, which I’m currently polishing off.

I began thinking about how my storyline and characters do or do not reflect the 5 C’s Principle I’d read about.

My First Thriller: The Red Man, An Evylia Wilde Novel

The story follows a teenage girl named Evylia as she searches for answers to her parent’s disappearance.

daxEvy has experienced strange visions ever since she was small. These visions allow her to view past or future memories in great detail, which often comes as a bit of a shock.

Not only does she insist on finding out all she can about her birth parents: she also seeks answers to why she’s always been able to see things that others can’t.

James Scott Bell & The Original 5 C’s Article

The original article writer, James Scott Bell (a bestselling author) encourages aspiring writers to try some literary vitamin C, using a clever play on words that draws us into the idea of the five C’s as a whole.

So, what are Bell’s Five C’s?


I’ve listed them in the above image.

Let’s briefly run through them, to get an idea of what each of the five C’s entails.

Complex Characters

  • An intriguing protagonist should be realistic, with both good and bad qualities.
  • They should struggle with both internal and external problems.
  • Their inner demons should influence how they react to different situations.
  • Supporting characters should sometimes create conflict with the MC.
  • Realistically, nobody gets along 100 percent of the time.dax2


  • The climax: the hero and villain should both have good and bad traits.
  • They should think they’re their actions are justified, even when others disagree.
  • Both the hero and villain need a detailed back-story.


From my own experience as a reader, I love a good plot twist, the more sudden and unexpected, the better.

  • Add in plot twists to keep readers on their toes.
  • When the story slows, shake things up and add in something unexpected.

dax 3


  • Get the heart skipping and blood pumping.
  • Replicate the emotions of your main character.
  • Manipulate sentence structure, tone and flow.
  • Use Sense Memory: think of the emotion you want readers to feel.
  • Recall a time when you felt the same emotion you want to describe and make notes on how your mind and body felt, how you reacted, etc.


  • Thrillers should carry a message to bring the community together.
  • What life lesson does the main character learn from their terrifying ordeal?
  • What theme will run throughout your tale?
  • The ending should sum up the theme/lesson, neatly rounding off the story.

Telling darker stories has always come naturally to me.

I found these five C’s really insightful and am definitely going to take a lot of Scott’s advice on board.

As far as Complex Characterisations, Confrontation, Careening, and Coronary go, I think my novel is more or less sound.

As for communication, I should probably do a bit more polishing before I decide to release the final draft of my novel.

This has been a really enjoyable post to write. I hope that it (and indeed Scott’s original article) will be of help to aspiring writers and readers looking to learn more about structuring thrillers.

Have an amazing day and as always, feel free to share this post.


dax 3Dax Munro is a lifelong dreamer, coffee lover, and fantasy fanatic. Dax recently came to terms with their diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, a mental illness characterized by its fluctuating emotional states and love/hate thought pattern.
Moving forward, Dax hopes to share inspirational novels that will encourage young adults to learn about the human condition and the mental health issues that sometimes affect our everyday lives.
You can discover more about Dax here:


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