Crime Thriller Story Ideas That Captivate Us (Updated in 2024)

10 crime thriller story ideas

Looking for fascinating crime thriller story ideas?

Read on for prompts like two Instagrammers or Tik-Tokers receiving anonymous, separate invitations to a secluded island only to get ensnared into a web of shady dealings, and many more!

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Related posts:
Detective Noir Writing Prompts
Chilling Urban Legend Writing Prompts
Psychological Thriller Writing Prompts
Engrossing Serial Killer Story Ideas

The Definition of Thriller Story

Thriller stories evoke feelings of suspense, excitement, anticipation, and also dread, keeping the audience on the “edge of their seats” while the narrative progresses to a climax. They often employ themes like concealment of vital facts and a villain-driven storyline.

The Silence of the Lambs is quite literally the thriller writer’s bible due to the amount of intimate details it contains. A more recent example is Gone Girl, a thriller story with various twists and engaging writing that keeps readers guessing up till the end.

How to write a good thriller story

Whenever you start sitting in front of your computer to write a good thriller story, think about this:

For me, a good thriller must teach something about the real world.

– Dan Brown

When the stake feels real and the details seem intimate, that’s when a thriller comes alive.

You can also utilize various literary tactics commonly used in thriller stories to make the narrative jumps out at the audience and pump the adrenaline: red herrings, narrative twists, unreliable narrators, and cliffhangers.

Crime Thriller Story Ideas

Without further ado, below are some story ideas that will keep your readers or audience on the edge of their seats.

Please note that the genders in these prompts are just placeholders and are not meant to enforce any hurtful stereotypes nor offend anyone.

Hostage Situations

First, let’s have some hostage situations. Throw in some interesting characters, and you’ll have a riveting crime thriller story!

1. Dining in Danger

Two strangers have to band together for survival when the restaurant’s disillusioned chef takes all of the patrons hostage. Introduce some twists, like what if one of them is the chef’s accomplice, or what if one of them was the chef’s ex-lover?

2. Influencer Showdown

When two pseudo-famous people (Instagrammers or Tik-Tokers) receive invitations to discuss an endorsement deal, they find out that it’s actually an offer to battle each other in a wicked game, with a group of paid patrons watching.

3. Deadly Challenge

In order to go viral, an influencer issues a disturbing challenge. Their budding fans accept the challenge and furthermore, some take it to an extreme, which might cost the influencer their life.

4. The Vigilante

A waiter frequently acts as a vigilante, thwarting criminals who harras their patrons. One night, one criminal decides to take a revenge on them and holds them hostage inside the restaurant. (This prompt originally appeared in my post Vigilante Writing Prompts and Story Ideas.)

Ticking Clocks

Secondly, ticking clocks in crime thriller stories instantly elevate the stake, and having your characters interact within a limited timeframe adds instant drama and heighten the suspense. Here are some ideas.

1. Hidden Inheritance

When the daughter of a deceased mafia boss unexpectedly inherits her father’s business, she is forced to make unlikely allies and go into hiding as the rest of the family discovers the will.

2. Lost Identity

Following a horse-riding accident, a housewife’s flashbacks of memories from her past life ignites suspicion that she’s been brainwashed by her husband. (Originally appeared in my post Spy Writing Prompts and Story Ideas.)

3. Perilous Trail

In a small town with active minefields, a robber takes two children hostage and escapes into one of those fields. The rescue mission sent for the children must deal with the active mines as well as the robber’s agenda for taking the children there with him.

4. Into the Code

A programmer must write herself into the web of codes that made up a sinister virtual reality game and attempt to save her boyfriend before the game deletes him for good. Will she succeed or will she be deleted, too?

5. Aerial Ambush

During a skydiving session, a billionaire accidentally discovers that his instructor has been hired by his business rival to assassinate him. The twist? He’s currently descending with a parachute, making escape seemingly impossible.

Serial Killers

Thirdly, no crime thriller story is complete without serial killers, where the typical motivation is psychological fulfillment. (If you wanna learn more about this genre, then give my post Serial Killer Story Idea a read!) Here are some ideas.

1. Living Nightmare

When a group of troubled individuals simulate a thriller/horror author most horrifying plot in real life setting, it’s up to the author to work with authorities to catch them.

2. Digital Echoes

A college student investigates the digital breadcrumbs left by a series of indecent incidents involving her sorority sisters. When some of them turned up dead, the student has to take her investigation up a notch.

3. Terminal Pursuits

During a layover in a foreign city, a serial killer who targets stewardesses finally meets his match when a stewardess fights back. It soon becomes a deadly game of cat and mouse in a city that’s foreign to the both of them.

4. Vanishing Waves

A retiree in a sleepy little beach town starts questioning the disappearance of some local folks, which is related to a cult founded by the retiree’s only friend, and the sheriff of that little town.


Picture Prompts

A picture speaks a thousand words. Use the pictures below as inspirations and prompts for your story. (Please click on each picture to learn more about it.)

(Please click on the image for more information about it.)

An idea: A detective becomes obsessed with a key witness to the point of fabricating and masterminding serious threats against her well-being, so that he has a reason to whisk her away to presumed safety. (Prompt originally appeared in my post Detective Noir Writing Prompts.)


(Please click on the image for more information about it.)

An idea: After two feuding parents cause the accidental death of their young child, they try to cover up the incident by planting false evidence about malevolent strangers handing out poisoned Halloween candies to children in the area. Based on the Halloween candies urban legend. (Prompt originally appeared in my post 14 Chilling Urban Legend Writing Prompts.)

More Ideas!

Now, get started on that project already while your creativity is flowing!

If you need more writing prompts, then feel free to check these out:

Or browse our Story Ideas & Writing Prompts category for more ideas! Questions? Feedback? Please leave a comment below, or contact me here!

Until next time!

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