Monday, 17 June 2013

Dramatic Disasters and Deadly Diseases

Natural disasters - and man-made ones - make for brilliant thriller reads, I find. The age-old ‘race against time’ to save innocent lives and – occasionally - the whole human race is the ultimate in ‘edge of the seat’ drama if done well.
Some of the best stories I have come across in the genre of thrillers, involve the use of the word ‘epidemic’. To most people this word is scary as it is the world of science gone wrong and nasty things happening to unsuspecting people. But I suspect the scary part is more about our lack of control over such tiny (usually unseen) microorganisms that can and do kill us indiscriminately.
We can easily imagine catching a nasty disease and the thought that something can spread like wildfire and wipe out an entire population – well, we know in our heart of hearts that it could just happen…To add to the tension and drama there is usually a time element to these stories and so it is not so difficult to build in a page turning tension. A sceptic (often a politician) who does not take the threat seriously is generally built in to provide the opposition to the main character and - voila – a readymade thriller plot! I don’t mean to sound as if this is so easy but there is definitely a theme to these stories, and we all know it, but it doesn’t seem to stop readers wanting these kinds of stories.
I love these books and I have used the motif in my own novels a little. My latest thriller - The Afterlife of Darkmares - does have a plot strand where a type of plague is released into a small community.

Have you considered using an epidemic or disaster ( or the threat of one) to heighten tension and create extra conflict? Have you read a great book/story using an epidemic/disaster?



  1. I remember reading "The Andromeda Strain" when I was a kid and then seeing the movie. I'm not an epidemic/disaster type of writer, though I'm fascinated by the flu pandemic of 1918.


  2. I don't write this sort of fiction either, but I admit to loving it - and films with that sort of storyline!

  3. Oh, yes -- like Janie above, I definitely read The Andromeda Strain when I was in high school.

    There may or may not be some natural disasters in an upcoming book of mine. And by natural I mean, not made naturally at all ... :)

  4. The thrillers I've been writing have high stakes, but they're more on a regional level. Often times when reading CNN and learning about a new virus in another part of the world I wonder if someone will come out with a new book about it.

  5. I'm with you on the long blog posts thing. There are times I just stop reading. It's not a good feeling but time just keeps ticking in my

    Here's to another great year in blogging -and yes I am also hooked.