What Makes a Thriller Great?

I’ve been attending ThrillerFest 2013 in New York City.  This first part, CraftFest, offers sessions on the craft of writing thrillers, mysteries and suspense, and my head is spinning from everything I’m learning!

This topic is just one example.  Today I attended a session presented by Andrew Kaplan on what makes a thriller great.  According to Andrew, a great thriller should have at least one of the following six characteristics.

1>> The thriller could invent a completely new subgenre, or it could reinvent a former subgenre that was no longer in favor.

2>> A revolutionary or completely new set up (log line in the movie trade) or stylistic breakthrough takes place.  Stylistic here means a new compelling voice.

3>> The protagonist captures or represents the zeitgeist.  In other words, she or he represents the common prevailing ideas of a time or place, a common man approach.

4>> A unique plot device, structure or twist that becomes a model for others may be the thriller’s great characteristic.  By model for others, I don’t mean subject to copying, but rather,a model that can be applied to new story ideas.

5>> The thriller contains memorable, quotable dialogue.  We all remember certain phrases that stick with us, long after we’ve forgotten the context of the plot or the specifics of how the conflict is resolved.

6>> Finally, a unique and unforgettable character can make a story unique.  Who can forget George Smiley or Hannibal Lecter?

Remember, the thriller only needs one of these characteristics to have the potential for greatness.  Many, like those of John LeCarre, Eric Ambler, and Len Deighton, contain more than one.

Based on the characteristics listed above, what are some of the great thrillers you’ve read?  Why do you consider them great?