Saturday, 18 June 2011

Chiller Thriller Friday. Err... Saturday??

Okay so here's my friday post - a day late, I know but it was re-launch day yesterday and my post was all about that! So I think I could be forgiven??

Chiller Thriller Friday ( oops Saturday?).

Intriguing plots, suspense, dreadful predicaments, breakneck pace, ‘out of this world’ events even. These are all elements of a good fiction thriller novel. Of course, you can also break thrillers down into lots of sub genres and start including spy/terrorist, swash-buckling adventure, horror, and supernatural. Maybe the key ingredient of thrillers is that they should have you breathlessly hanging onto your hollyhocks to see what will happen next. The stakes are high and layer after layer of ‘can it possibly get any worse?’ is superseded only by the hero/heroine’s attempts to come good, which conversely just gets him/her into further disasters... I just love these plots…
But wait there is more to it than this.
As a thriller writer I’m always fascinated by human behaviour in extremis. When the chips are down (forgive the cliché) all bets are off! Because, much more than the exciting plot lines, there must be a strong human interest that readers can relate to. And that, I believe, is what makes a thriller story so believable and engaging. It is the hero/heroine suffering and struggling and yet overcoming adversity – eventually - that makes readers empathise with them.
One of the main faults I had when I first started writing thrillers was that I did not understand the power of empathy. I focused on the multi-layered plot making it as full of chills and frights as I could. I made my main character a bit of a bitch and apart from overcoming the threat to her and her family I never made her particularly likeable. After this criticism of my story came from more than a few quarters, I looked afresh at other stories, comparing them to my own and realised they were right. Mostly main characters should be likeable even if they do some not so good things.
None of us know how we’d react if we were put in a life or death situation or were faced by a dreadful choice but we can’t help but wonder how we’d cope and that emotion – empathy - is the engine of all good fiction, not just thrillers. Of course it does mean that the heroine/hero characters must be likeable so we can root for them to succeed. Even superheroes and star trek characters have to have some human frailties for us to feel for them.
Thrillers may be fast-paced exciting reads, but they still need to conform to basic story telling rules and the main charcters still need to connect with us, the readers.

Do you agree? What makes a good thriller for you?


  1. I like fast-paced & mysterious thrillers. In other words, if I can't put the book down and I can't figure out whodunit. Those are my favorites. :)

  2. I think my favourite thrillers are the ones where I root for a character but then I wonder whether I should be rooting for them. Mysterious characters and twists that I can't predict.
    Great post.

  3. Thanks very much for the comments Elpi and Tiffany! Appreciate you taking the time to look at my blog.
    Happy writing!