The central figure, the protagonist, is confronted with increasingly threatening situations. This means that his life or that of a ward is in great danger. The adversary, the antagonist, seeks the life of the protagonist or the life of the subject. The antagonist usually belongs to a group of villains whose connections reach into the highest circles. Thrillers like to play with the level of highest power and tell of a conspiracy against the protagonist.
The main character in a thriller is usually a person from the middle of society. He has more weaknesses than strengths. And basically he wants nothing more than to lead a normal and peaceful life. But soon he gets caught in the crosshairs of a conspiracy and is forced to act, or more precisely: to fight for survival. The protagonist of the thriller becomes a “hero against his will”.
The motivation to act is that either the protagonist himself becomes a victim or his wife, child, family or a stranger, that is: a protector. The threat should not be abstract, but rather should make a person fear for his or her life.
The threat may affect other circles. For example, an entire city, a country or even the entire world may ultimately be threatened. It is up to the protagonist to recognize and understand the threat as it develops, and to take action against it. If the protagonist himself is threatened first, he turns the tables from a certain point and tries to end the threat himself.
The antagonist and his group
The protagonist is usually threatened from many sides. Behind the threat is often an organization whose connections can reach up to the highest police or government circles.
Since such a great threat to a person cannot be sustained by a single antagonist, the term “antagonist and his group” should be used. The members of the group outdo each other in ruthlessness. The greatest murderous lust, however, has its leader, the central antagonist. He should meet the protagonist towards the end of the story. There is a duel in which the battle-experienced antagonist is superior to the protagonist. But by a tricky move of an assistant the protagonist can defeat the antagonist and with him the head of the group, which is defeated as a whole shortly after.
The shortest way for the protagonist is to go to the police and ask them for help. But either the police are involved in the conspiracy or the antagonist’s group has blackened the protagonist’s name with false facts to the police, so that he is also wanted by the police.
The helpers of the protagonist
The protagonist is looking for helpers, because he is by no means able to cope with the pressure that is built upon him alone. A helper can be a stranger (a simple patrolman in “Die Hard”, 1988), a friend of a friend (surveillance specialist Brill in “Enemy of the State”, 1998), or more rarely a defector from the antagonist’s enemy camp (such as the pilot Pussy Galore in “007 – Goldfinger”, 1964). A helper of the protagonist can become a good friend or a lover during the course of the plot or at the end.
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