Guest Post: Thriller Tropes

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October 9 – November 3, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

As a writer and a reader, I find the thriller genre a rollercoaster ride of tension, suspense, and high-stakes challenges. I’m fascinated by fast-paced, complex plots, and relatable characters I care about. That’s why I’m attracted to writers like Amy Young, and why I’ve invited her to share her thoughts about writing thrillers. Enjoy this week’s guest post!


All genres of fiction rely on certain conventions that define their space. In thrillers, red herrings abound, intelligent psychopaths hide in the shadows, and a clock slowly ticks away as the main character tries to solve the puzzle. And as a reader, there are a few thriller tropes that I cannot get enough of.

Dual (or Triple) Timelines or Narratives

The dual timeline setup is a popular method for creating suspense within a thriller narrative. Whether it’s done by alternating chapters or having one half of the book told from one perspective and the second half from another (or a third, as the case may be), this is one of my favorite thriller tropes. As a reader, we believe what a narrator tells us as the story goes along; but when a writer incorporates dual narratives, they create the opportunity to show that perspective is everything when it comes to buying into someone’s story.

Isolated Locales

Five people on an island, one of them turns up dead or goes missing? I’m sold. The isolation trope is used over and over again in thriller writing, and it never gets old for me. I’m drawn to titles like “The Island” or “The Getaway” for the seclusion and separation they promise. Throw in a good old fashioned “no cell phone service” layer and I’m hooked.

A Closed Circle of Suspects

The closed circle of suspects can go hand in hand with the isolated locale trope. In a setting like a city, there are endless possibilities for suspects. Trap everybody in a cabin or on an island during a storm, and the circle becomes much, much smaller. This trope appeals to me because it allows the reader to really get to know the characters (suspects) without the noise of the outside world.

The Unreliable Narrator

Unreliable narrators are by far my number one favorite of the thriller tropes. From the moment we meet the narrator in The Tell Tale Heart, he assures us that he is trustworthy and rational. Never mind that he’s the one who murdered the person buried below the floorboards. Admittedly, this is a trope that has been used quite a bit in recent writing, so much so that it’s difficult to trust any narrator now. However, it still remains one of my favorite twists in a story, no matter how many times I come across it. And it also leads me to ask the question: are any first-person narratives really reliable?


Now that we’ve heard Amy’s views on thriller tropes, let’s take a closer look at the first in her Lakeview Mysteries, The Water Tower. 


The Water Tower by Amy Young

Josie Ashbury was a successful Hollywood actress with a booming career—until an on-set breakdown sends her back to her small Ohio hometown to recover. Taking a job teaching at her old high school, Josie is beginning to put the pieces of her life back together when one of her students dies under suspicious circumstances. The police close the case quickly, without any real answers. Josie is determined to find the truth behind the girl’s death. At the same time, Josie is battling demons of her own. As she faces debilitating insomnia that leaves her with gaps in her memory, she dives into the tangled secrets surrounding the investigation. When she finally unravels the web, she discovers that the truth lies much closer to home than she could have ever imagined.

Praise for The Water Tower:

“Start with a suspicious death of a beloved student, add a devoted former starlet turned drama teacher, and a dash of the police closing the case far too quickly, and you have the makings of a twisting and propulsive mystery. Amy Young’s The Water Tower will keep you flipping the pages to find out who killed the politician’s young daughter, and then have you checking if your teenager is where they should be tonight.” ~ Mary Keliikoa, multi-award nominated author of HIDDEN PIECES and the PI Kelly Pruett mystery series

The Water Tower is an electrifying work of suspense that depicts a wonderful hometown setting. This slow-burn mystery with sparkling prose has a well-crafted plot that is at once engrossing and fully realized from beginning to end. I highly recommend this engaging mystery.” ~ David Putnam, Bestselling author of the Bruno Johnson series and Dave Beckett series

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery    Published by: Level Best Books 

Publication Date: June 20, 2023  Number of Pages: 290

ISBN: 9781685122775   Series: The Lakeview Mysteries, Book 1

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

She stood on the water tower, looking at the skyline she had only observed from the ground. You really could see the whole town from up here. Funny how your whole life can fit into one 360-degree glance. Peering down at the ground, she was no longer able to see individual blades of grass, all of them blurring into a sea of perfect emerald green. To her right was the roof of Lakeview High School, looking small from this vantage point. She felt as though if she leaned over far enough, she could almost touch it. But that was ridiculous; the school had to be several hundred feet away. Her vision came in and out of focus as she swayed, thinking about her life, her past, her future. In her three years at the school, she had never been up on the tower. No one she knew had been up here, either. Most students wouldn’t dare to scale it. Too scared of getting caught, too scared of breaking the rules, too scared of living. When she looked down at the ground, she thought she could see movement, like little grass men dancing and hopping around through a crowd of their peers. Kind of like high school. More like, exactly like high school. Everyone looks the same; maybe some are a bit taller, a bit shorter, a bit wider, but everyone dressed in essentially the same uniform, hopping over one another, trying to make their mark. How many feet above the ground was she—50, 60 feet? Was that high enough to kill you, or maybe just break a few bones? It would probably depend on how you hit the ground. Here she was, high above the town, pondering the angle at which you might hit the ground and live through the fall, the velocity at which an object might fall from here. Her body felt warm all over, despite the crisp air of late fall, and she took off her jacket and threw it aside. She leaned against the rail and spread her arms, allowing the breeze to blow through her, inhabiting every cell for just a moment, before moving off in another direction to go dance with someone else. Her 17 years had all been spent here, in this one place, in this small, boring town where, it seemed, nothing was all that was destined to happen. The clock tower chimed; it was 11:00. She felt she had eternity in front of her, the rest of this night, the rest of her life, stuck here in this town. Would she ever get out? Did it even matter if she did? She thought about the college catalogs arriving at home, the hundreds of pages of sales pitches clamoring for her family’s money. The sprawling campuses, the smiling students, the serious, but friendly, professors—what was the point? She would just end up back here, raising the same family as her friends, living the same life that her kids would eventually live. Reaching out her slender arm, she twirled her wrist. She could hardly wait for graduation when, everyone said, “real life” would begin. “I can’t wait to get out of here,” her friends exclaimed, dreaming of big cities and even bigger lives in far off places: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, anywhere but here. But she knew they would return, just like their parents, raising 2.5 kids with a Labradoodle and a balding husband in one of the best-little-suburbs in the country. Was it really so bad? She watched all these super-educated women who had given up their careers to stay home and clean up after the kids and drive to soccer practice, instead of changing the world as they’d so hopefully planned when plotting their escape years earlier. Was that her fate? Was that what awaited her now? Dozens of similar thoughts swirled and crashed like waves in front of her, mixing in a fantastic spray of colors, lights, and sounds. She was dead before she hit the ground. *** Excerpt from The Water Tower by Amy Young. Copyright 2023 by Amy Young. Reproduced with permission from Amy Young. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Amy Young

Amy Young is an author, comedian, and actor based in Cleveland. After spending a decade in Los Angeles working in the entertainment industry and writing her debut novel, The Water Tower, she returned to Ohio to be closer to family. Amy is working on her second book, a thriller, and in her free time she enjoys going to the theatre, bingeing reality TV, and spending time with her husband and many, many cats. She has a B.A. in English from Kenyon College.

Catch Up With Amy Young: Goodreads BookBub – @authoramyyoung1 Instagram – @amypcomedy Twitter – @authoramyyoung Facebook – @authoramyyoung TikTok – @amypyoung1


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