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As a newcomer to this group, I would like to share with you few thoughts on the “métier” of writing thrillers.
One of the first challenges a thriller writer faces when putting down the foundations of his/her story is choosing the size and type of stage on which to set the story. Will it take place in a room, on a ship, a train, in a town, or will the action take place in many locations? Each scenario has advantages and disadvantages, while having its own set of opportunities and restrictions. The one-location thriller will be perfect for the exploring of personal relationships and the intensifying of conflict between the characters. Added tension is provided by the constricting aspect of the limited dimensions of a room, plane, train (aka “Murder on the Orient Express”), submarine (“Hunt for Red October”), etc.…
Alternatively, the story tension in the multi-venue thriller will be provided in part by the external stimuli offered by the various locations. The reader is transported to the locale, and will enjoy, tolerate, or suffer the physical characteristics of that locale along with the protagonist/antagonist. He’ll freeze in an Alpine mountain shelter, sweat and be thirsty in the Libyan Desert, enjoy the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, etc… Well developed, settings virtually become characters in the story.
Having been a longtime reader and admirer of the likes of Sidney Sheldon, Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, Len Deighton, Robert Ludlum, John Le Carré, Ken Follett and others, the multi-venue stage has always held a particular attraction for me.
In “The Chimera Sanction” (and its stand-alone prequel “Dead Bishops Don’t lie”), I like to think I’ve brought the reader to out- of- the ordinary locations, thrusting my protagonist Dulac into the throes of conflicts at these sites. Having the action take place at the Vatican, on the searing sand dunes of the Libyan Desert, then in the middle of a storm in the Mediterranean offers reader stimuli unavailable in a single-venue story. These settings offer unique opportunities for tension, without the loss of focus on the story. Another benefit of the multi-location thriller is that it allows the author to develop parallel story lines, which funnel down into one towards the end of the story.
In my latest thriller “Jaws of the Tiger” published by BWL, I thought I would try the other option, the one locale setting in the form of a hijacked cruise ship where the action story develops, and combine it with the follow-up investigation of the crime. One might say it’s a cross-genre, combination action thriller and whodunit, and I hope it will appeal to readers of both groups.
André K. Baby