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Author Topic: What Is A Thriller?  (Read 316 times)

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Offline adventurerTopic starter

What Is A Thriller?
« on: February 27, 2010, 01:08:02 AM »
From David Morrell. Very inspiring for me as the text ignites the feeling for fascinating role play too.


2004 (for http://www.thrillerwriters.org/)

WHAT IS A THRILLER?
by David Morrell
...


More What's a thriller writer? Those of us who worship thrillers and love writing
them took the answer for granted. But we discovered, to our surprise, that some readers evidently
have a porous view of who-done-its, crime stories, action stories, suspense stories, thrillers., etc, and
group them all together as mysteries.
By definition, a mystery involves a puzzle that demands to be solved. The word "mystery"
creates expectations about the sort of book one is about to read. Imagine somebody coming to my
latest novel CREEPERS in the expectations that it's a mystery. That novel is about urban explorers-
history and architecture enthusiasts who "infiltrate" old buildings that have been sealed and abandoned
for decades. In this case, the deserted building is the Paragon Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey, a
structure and a region that have complex, disturbing histories. I dramatize every instant of every
breath of the harrowing eight hours that the "creepers" endure within the walls of that crumbling edifice.
The novel is a mixed genre-a dark suspense story that feels like a ghost story, even though there
aren't any ghosts. But with no corpse in the opening pages and no detective following clues,

 So let's pose the question again. What is a thriller?
 It is an
encompassing term into which many crime, action, and suspense stories can be grouped. It applies to
a variety of types: the legal thriller, the spy thriller, the action-adventure thriller, the medical thriller, the
police thriller, the romantic thriller, the historical thriller, the political thriller, the religious thriller, the
high-tech thriller, etc. New types are constantly being invented. What gives them their common
ground is the intensity of the emotions they create, particularly those of apprehension and exhilaration,
of excitement and breathlessness. By definition, if thrillers do not thrill, they aren't doing their job.
Sometimes, they build rhythmically to a rousing climax. Other times, they start at top speed and never
ease off. At their best, they have an archetypal, primordial essence (think Homer and the Beowulf
poet) addressing fundamental concerns -survival, the nature of humanity, the heroic struggle between
right and wrong-that date back to ancient myth.
To put the discussion in a different context, what's the difference between mysteries and
thrillers? One crucial distinction is that traditional mysteries appeal primarily to the mind and
emphasize the logical solution to a puzzle. In contrast, thrillers strive for heightened emotions and

emphasize the sensations of what might be called an obstacle race and a scavenger hunt. It's not that
thrillers don't have ideas. At their best, they explore powerful concepts that help us understand our
culture and ourselves. John le Carre's fiction is a good example. But in broad terms, the contrast is
between emotion and logic, between an urgent pace and a calm one. True, the two genres can merge
if the scavenger hunt of a thriller involves solving a puzzle. But in a thriller, the goal of solving the
puzzle is to excite the reader as much as to satisfy curiosity. It's interesting that, in recent years, some
authors have blended elements of thrillers and mysteries into a hybrid (mostly involving serial killers) in
which a detective's solution to a heinous crime is presented in a harrowing fashion that is more typical
of thrillers than mysteries. This sort of evolution is an indication of how creative these genres can be."