Monday, June 4, 2012

Mysteries and Thrillers

One of the things authors like least is to be labeled as being a writer of only one category of book. Sometimes this is unavoidable due to the insistence of a publisher who is marketing the author as a product in one particular genre. In the absence of such pigeonholing, authors cherish the right and challenge of being free to contribute to multiple genres, fiction or nonfiction. One particular transition requires an adjustment of the writer's outlook. As an author of mystery novels (The Lord's Prayer Mystery Series*), I am always very careful to avoid coincidence in my books. Some mystery authors have said that there's no such thing as coincidence, while others have said that you're allowed no more than one coincidence per novel. This is completely different from the case of an author of thrillers. A thriller requires a continuous high-speed, almost frenzied, succession of events and developments in order to keep the reader involved in the action. Unfortunately, real life rarely operates at such a hectic pace. Consequently, almost all thriller novels allow coincidences to occur on a regular basis as the price you have to pay for having the right characters in the desired locations and performing the desired actions on schedule to match the pace of plot developments. Heroes and heroines are the only individuals to escape a catastrophe. A saving intervention intercepts the protagonist at the brink of disaster. A new character is introduced just in time to avert tragedy...These techniques are acceptable in a thriller because the rush of emotions produced by the pace of action is the payoff for the story. Mystery novelists try to maintain a sense of reality in their works that tolerates no more coincidence than occurs in real life. It's an apples and oranges sort of thing. The two genres are not the same, but both can be very fruitful.

*The Lord's Prayer Mystery Series by Richard Davidson: Vol. I Lead Us Not into Temptation; Vol. II Give Us this Day Our Daily Bread; Vol. III Forgive Us Our Trespasses.

No comments:

Post a Comment