Photo by Pavel Danilyuk

An urban thriller is a genre that blends elements of crime fiction, psychological suspense, and the unique setting of the contemporary urban environment.

Urban thrillers typically feature a crime, mystery, or high-stakes scenario that drives the plot forward. This could include anything from murder investigations to corporate espionage to political intrigue. Books like Psychic Redemption: Spiritual Quest for Truth by David W. Stewart prove the two can blend well.

In addition to the crime/suspense elements, urban thrillers often explore the psychology and motivations of the characters. This can create a heightened sense of tension and uncertainty as readers try to get inside the minds of the protagonists and antagonists.

The modern city’s complexity, density, and hidden corners are central characters in urban thrillers. The urban setting shapes the action and creates a unique atmosphere of danger, anonymity, and moral ambiguity. Urban thrillers tend to have a gritty, realistic feel, drawing on city life’s sights, sounds, and seedy underbelly.

Secrets to Creating and Maintaining Suspense

Ah, urban fantasy. This fascinating genre often explores themes of racism and social injustice through fantastical and symbolic means.

Urban fantasy stories can use supernatural elements as allegories or metaphors for real-world tensions. For example, the experiences of minority characters may be paralleled through their treatment as magical “others” in the urban fantasy setting.

The worldbuilding in urban thrillers often reflects and critiques the natural world’s social hierarchies and power structures. Authors can use races, factions, and institutions to explore systemic issues. Protagonists from marginalized backgrounds can wrestle with their dual identities, balancing their “normal” lives with their supernatural abilities or affiliations. This can mirror the lived experiences of people of color navigating a biased society.

Putting Well-Liked Characters in Gritty Situations

Remember that there are factors necessary to create suspense. The most important is the reader’s empathy, where writers give this character a desire, trauma, or internal struggle that readers can relate to. They feel closer to the storyline if they care for and identify with a character. Furthermore, readers will be invested once they see the characters struggling to reach their destined future.

To create a sense of worry or concern among readers, the character needs to be challenged to get what they want. If something’s at stake, only then will readers be more engaged with the story. Here are some other tips for making readers more invested by clarifying the following:

  • The character’s desires (love, freedom, adventure, justice, etc.)
  • What keeps them from attaining them
  • What consequences awaits when they don’t get what they want

Think of it like inflating a balloon, not letting the air out immediately. As you keep blowing more in, the balloon stretches but tightens simultaneously. Until the time comes, the balloon will look like it will pop, and at any moment, more air will be inside. Trust that readers love the tension more than the resulting act, so use that very well.

Building Blocks of Tension

On the other hand, suspense builds as danger approaches. When readers find a character they care about, the last thing they want is for these characters to be in danger. However, this doesn’t necessarily apply to life-or-death situations only.

The threat to the characters’ lives may come in many ways, such as physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and relational. Whatever the genre, as a writer, you must show the readers that something is about to happen. Furthermore, you must stretch out the suspense by delaying the resolution to make the tension worth it.

Like anticipating something you’ve been waiting for, escalating the suspense in our stories will result in a satisfying climax. The more dangerous and devastating it is, the better. Otherwise, the developing suspense will evaporate in the wind.

More Promises, Less Action

In the stillness of your story, there lies the brewing suspense. The gaps that most readers see in passing are the critical moments when the promise of something dreadful is in the works. Remember that some readers may complain that “nothing is happening” as writers try to drag on the suspense. While that may be understandable, it’s also worth noting that patience may be bitter, but the fruit is sweet.

Moreover, urban thriller writers should be masters of anticipation. The problem lies not in the lack of action but in the promises that need to be made more. So when readers get bored, it can’t be solved by simply resolving it with action. Making things happen won’t increase suspense since readers won’t longer have anything to look forward to.

Fulfilled Promises Matter the Most

As much as creating tension and promising the readers are necessary steps, consistency is still crucial. After all, who wouldn’t want a resolution that ties up loose ends and brings the story its closure? It would look better if the characters met their good or bad fate. The writer creates an impressionable storyline and characters by fulfilling the promise to the readers.

Remember that a writer should deliver every single time. Failure to do so will make readers feel like they’ve been fooled into thinking that the story leads to something. In the end, a huge promise without fulfillment isn’t suspense but, instead, a disappointment.


Keeping these urban thriller elements in mind will keep the gears of the story going. Learn how to carefully weave these aspects in a story over time to keep readers on their toes the whole time. Furthermore, good prose is just about the art of sharp suspense. And on that tremendous tension that readers will surely enjoy, grab a copy of Psychic Redemption: Spiritual Quest for Truth by David W. Stewart today!

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