Regardless of the chosen direction for a narrative, all works at their core are an amusement ride. An attraction that an audience wants to experience. A thrill.
Every piece contains three primary elements to compose the ride; suspense, tension and excitement. Infusing the elements into the piece in varying amounts can dictate the ultimate direction for the narrative and define its very genre.
A narrative begins with a solitary question. A singular hook that draws the audience in and drives the individuals in the piece forward. In a mystery it is often a crime scene and the question is 'why?' In a thriller it is often the same question, the same 'why?' However, it is also often accompanied by a consistent threat. A 'who's next?' that the audience continually asks. While for a romance or drama it is 'will I find love?' or 'will I ever break from this routine?' This question is imperative, it's the start of the ride.
Once the audience is on the ride it becomes a matter of alternating elements to maintain their interest. Like a roller coaster ride, the more unpredictable the journey the more the audience will be captivated.
In a thriller, the audience is given an event that captures their interest, an event that serves as a form of excitement. These events come in the form of close calls, near-death experiences and quite often fight or chase sequences. The excitement of these events is used sparingly like dramatic drops on a roller-coaster track.
All of the radical drops in a coaster would not matter were it not for the tension that comes from the rise to the top of each or the suspense of not knowing when the drop will occur. In a narrative, the characters are led from one event to the next under intense pressure. Whether it's an investigation or characters clamoring for survival, the pressure keeps the story moving.
While there are only certain elements that can be used to perpetuate the story, there are a multitude of ways that they can be implemented. The intervals between the elements can leave room for unpredictably or a rapid pace that leaves the audience breathless. The elements can even be hidden, revealed only at the last possible second to enhance their impact.
All narratives are inherently thrillers to a degree, the audience is driven forward by the events, the climbs and the drops of the ride. How do you keep the thrills coming?