So far this year, I've read two thrillers: THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK by Mark Terry & DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER by Jeff Lindsay.
What I learned from THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK is how important structure is in a thriller. I love stories about killer viruses in the wrong hands, but what really kept me turning the pages was the pace of the narration. Everytime I finished a chapter I thought "Geez, that was really well written--packaged in a sleek, tight little box with all the right trimmings." Then, even though I recognized the hook at the end for what it was, it still made me sneek into the next chapter. I couldn't stop myself, then I couldn't stop in the middle of the next chapter, so...let's just say I got in more reading time than sleep. One thing Mark is really good at is putting his characters in even more danger just when you think they've had enough and want to rescue them. It seems to me the hard thing about putting them in mortal danger is getting them back out. "So, how are you going to get him out of this one?" was a question frequently on my mind. And then "Ohhhhh, clever. I would have never thought of that," was frequently the answer.
My conclusion, now that I'm looking at thrillers as structural beings, is that I am trying to write in the wrong genre. I love to read thrillers but I don't think I'm cut out for writing them. I'm not being defeatist here, just realistic. I keep talking about how much I love to get in my character's heads and in thrillers, this is neither neccessary nor beneficial. It would actually slow the pace of the story. Not at all a good tool to pull from the toolbox when building suspense. Since it's my sharpest tool, I guess the smart thing to do is change what I'm building.
DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER is a dark and sometimes humorous novel about a serial killer working in the Miami Police Department. They've actually made a Showtime series out of the books, but reading is much more fun. What I learned from this book is that I take both death and writing way too seriously. If Jeff Lindsay can write a book about a serial killer chopping up bad guys in between chasing bad guys chopping up people that makes you giggle out loud as you're reading it...surely less dark subjects deserve a little lightness of being sometimes.
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