Unpredictability Trumps Predictability in the Best Thriller Novels.
Predictability is not exciting. When someone or something reacts or acts in ways that are expected the need to anticipate is removed. The outcome is known because it is the same every time. However, when someone or something is unpredictable a degree of suspense, even anxiety is added to the circumstances. One readies oneself because the outcome is not known. It could be anything, ranging from rational to irrational; dangerous or safe; dark places or places filled with light; peace or turmoil; happiness or sadness; etc. etc. Who knows? And it is that tendency that makes the best thriller novels fit into that category.
A murderer is always a good source of unpredictability. The mere fact that a killer acts on his on impulses; when the fancy strikes he or she responds accordingly. Thus all spectators have no idea who the life-taker will choose as the next victim. Hence unpredictability. An author who sits down to write the best thriller novel will often add a murderer to the cast of characters.
In “Child 44” the victims are children. Innocent children struck down before they have a chance to dream of a future. The killings span over time and place which makes the killer hard to track. Add to that some interesting Russian history and an instant best-selling thriller novel was born. No one can predict when or where the killer will strike next.
In”A Moving Screen” the victims are women. Young, blonde, fun-loving women struck down before they have a chance to chase their dreams. The killings span over three years and different jurisdictions near Atlanta, Georgia which makes the killer hard to track. Add to this an eyewitness who has no idea what has been witnessed and an instant thriller novel was born. No one can predict when or where the killer will strike next.
Imagine driving down a dark road in the middle of nowhere. All around you are trees and
undergrowth that prevent a clear view of the side of the road. All of a sudden you have to jerk the steering wheel to the right because a sudden sharp curve appears, your speed is too fast and you almost lose control of the vehicle. As soon as you are in control another huge winding curve appears. No signs on the road indicates that these sharp curves are coming up. You slow down for your own safety. Maybe you begin to pray. Your heart is beating faster as you grip the steering wheel with both hands. You are on the edge of your seat. Suddenly a huge figure emerges from the left, coming across the road in front of you. You slam on the brakes!
The best thriller novels are just like that dark road in the middle of nowhere with all the sharp curves and obscured views of the roadside. They heighten your senses and put you on alert. If you want to make it through to the end, you have to be ready for anything.
Consider the novel “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk. In this novel two guys meet and decide that life is more fun fighting at night with bare hands. Not each other. Other guys. And the first rule of fight club is that you don’t talk about fight club. There’s a big surprise waiting for the reader at the end of this novel. A twist made this novel such a success that a screenplay was adapted by the same name and the movie’s star was none other than Brad Pitt. “Fight Club” has wonderful twists.
“A Moving Screen” also has a twist. One that no one is expecting. One has to read the book to find it. Just like that dark road with trees and undergrowth on both sides to obscure the view, “A Moving Screen” throws a curve just when the reader feels he or she has it all under control.
All the best thriller novels have twists and are full of the unexpected.
You may say to yourself “It depends.” I agree! In a marriage lying is not a good practice. And parents need their children to be honest. So where or when does a liar trump the truth? In a thriller!
“Lincoln Lawyer” is a film adapted from a novel by the same name. Written by Michael Connelly, the main character, Mickey Haller is a Los Angeles lawyer whose office is his Lincoln Town Car. He is chauffeured by his driver, Earl, played by Laurence Mason. Haller is a defense attorney and his one fear is that he will one day send an innocent man to jail. He knows that his clients lie and sometimes he advises them to take a plea when the evidence is insurmountable. Out of the blue he’s cast into the net of Louis Roulet; wealthy, handsome, boy-next-door appeal, and who vehemently claims that he is innocent. Someone is lying. Either the witnesses or Roulet. And there you have the beginning of the suspense that carries you all the way to the climax of the story, when the liar is revealed. This novel would never have been the same without the liars.
Michael Connelly created these characters to make “The Lincoln Lawyer” one of the best thriller novels. He used all of the necessary ingredients for a suspense thriller and for dessert he included a bold-faced liar. And that liar made all the difference.
In Kris Allis’s “A False Start,” one character lives a lie. This character, Orella Bookings, is an alcoholic who is guilty of a hit-and-run accident in which a woman is killed. Orella flees the scene of the crime and conveniently hides her car and all evidence of the crime and goes back to living her life as if nothing has happened. But this liar was needed. It is her hit-and-run that creates a way for the main character, Anissa Brogdon, to escape an abusive relationship. “A False Start” has all the necessary ingredients for a suspense thriller. And in this novel it is the liar that makes all the difference in the story. As in all of the best thriller novels, a good lie trumps the truth.
Insanity is characterized by extreme foolishness or irrationality. It is the state of being seriously mentally ill. Most normal people do not aspire to insanity. We are a world of people who take pride in intellectual superiority. However, those of us who enjoy reading are thrilled to encounter an insane character in a novel. Insanity breeds suspense. By the sheer nature of its definition, insanity creates anxiety and fear. The insane person is powerful in that he or she can rule any situation due to a severe lack of rationality. And the worst part of all is that most verifiable insane persons look normal. As normal as you or I. And therein lies their competence. They have the ability to act anyway that they want, say what they want, and do what they want. It’s allowed and overlooked because they are insane.
“Alice in Wonderland”, known originally as “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” was written in 1865 by Lewis Carrol, an English mathematician. This book is notably fantasy and it has become popular with children and adults throughout the years since published. But I would definitely put it on the shelf amongst thriller novels by virtue of its content. A child falls into a rabbit hole where she meets talking animals. One of whom is referred to as the “Mad Hatter.” He is not called mad because he’s angry, but rather because he’s insane. Now imagine the fear this child experienced right from the beginning. She’s stoned, (the rocks turn to cake and cause her to grow), she’s ridiculed and gawked at, and she’s far from home. And then comes the Queen of Hearts who shouts endlessly “Off with her head!” This story would not have been the same without these characters who bleed instability and lunacy. Insanity at its best rules this story, along with suspense and mystery. Numerous versions of this novel have been adapted to film. In fact, “Alice in Wonderland” may be in theaters where you live today, starring Johnny Depp.
“A Moving Screen,” is a story of a serial killer. One who is obviously irrational and demented based on the way he chooses to take the lives of his victims. And yet his methods and knowledge of forensics border on genius. The reader will soon realize that every move that Michael makes has been thought out carefully. Not only that, Michael relies on the help of a power greater than himself for success of his mission. He is extremely competent, for the police have no clues to his identity or that he really exists. Only one police officer, Dennis Cane, has noticed his killing spree that occurs twice a year. Unfortunately, Michael is insane. He has to be! But the story would not be the same without his presence. Once again insanity breeds suspense, anxiety, and fear. And it definitely rules in “A Moving Screen.”
The dictionary defines despicable as deserving of hatred and contempt. Strong words! In the best thriller novels there is always a despicable character or two roaming through the story wreaking havoc. They must be there! Their presence is mandated. They make the novel worth reading. We can’t wait to see them get their just rewards. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. But readers need to loathe them. In the best thriller novels despicable characters trump the wimpy, timid, and pleasantly nice characters. They just do!
Consider Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” What would that story have been without Nurse Ratchett? We needed her. She was so deliciously heinous!
In “A Moving Screen,” Michael is contemptible. He needs to be stopped and punished in the worst way.
Actually there is a best-selling thriller novel that has the title “Absolute Power.” Written by David Baldacci, this novel has all the power elements of a suspenseful thriller. First of all, it is a story of a fictional POTUS who is living life a tad indecently. And he has a bad habit of abusing women. Domestic abuse is a very real problem. It was very ingenious of the author to approach the topic in a way to shine the light on the idea that men who abuse women are usually men who crave power. And what is more powerful than being the president of the United States? “Absolute Power” is an example of a thriller novel with a powerful punch.
“A Moving Screen” is a thriller novel with a serial killer who has absolute power. No one knows who he is. No one knows when or where he will strike next. No one can identify his victims. Not even the police! He kills at will and at his pleasure. When it comes to committing the perfect murder, this killer has absolute power. “A Moving
Screen” is also a thriller novel with a powerful punch.
The best thriller novels approach real life issues in a creative way in order to shine light on serious issues while at the same time entertaining. This approach, when done well,
carries absolute power.
The best thriller novels are those novels with a central character that can get himself or herself out of any situation. Including death. After reading about such a character, readers usually never forget them. Characters like D’artagnon, James Bond, and Oliver Twist. These people sprung from the imagination of their respective authors. And yet those of us who’ve read about them consider them old friends. We long to know what happened to them after the last page of the novel is turned.
James Patterson’s character Alex Cross is an example. Alex is a psychologist and a former FBI agent who lives and works in Washington, D C. He is very intelligent and cool as a cucumber. He is a good father and chooses to live in a high risk neighborhood even though he can afford to live elsewhere. He volunteers at St. Anthony’s Parish as his way to get involved with the community. He has loved and lost several women due to various reasons. He appeared first in “Along Came a Spider.”
Lee Child’s character Jack Reacher is another example. Jack Reacher is a different sort of guy. He is a former military police officer of the United States Army. He travels around the country with no luggage. When he needs a change of clothes he buys them and discards the old ones. He finds himself in dangerous situations quite often, but he manages to come out of them on top. He appeared first in “The Killing Floor.”
Kris Allis’s character Anissa Brogdon is yet another example. Anissa endures three years of her life with an abusive husband who goes to the outer limits of hell to torment her. She manages to escape and still maintain her dignity and sanity. She also resolves to never go back to him and finds herself literally running for her life. She first appears in “A False Start.”
++++The best thriller novels have characters that are not easily forgotten and they are so likeable that readers want to read about their adventures again and again if possible. Hence the best thriller novel series.
By definition a thriller has to be a thrilling story with mayhem and adversity. In this age of computer generated images, texting, and selfies, the average human being will not settle for less than good entertainment. Even the fairy tales that some of us grew up with have morphed into a television series called “Once Upon a Time.” In this series all sorts of characters are mixed together to create thrills and suspense. Rumpelstiltskin and Captain Hook are an unlikely pairing and did not go together in the basic fairy tale. But they work out in this TV series. Thus, a thriller novel can hardly get away with a happily ever after story. A thriller has to be a story that is rife with a series of unfortunate events like murder, kidnapping, abuse, theft, alcoholism, a terrifying storm, a monster, a ghost, a demented gargoyle and exorcisms⎯ all of these are wonderful misfortunes. To be counted among the best, a thriller novel must throw one of more of its characters into a
tailspin of mind-blowing catastrophe.
“The Exorcist” by WilliamPeter Blatty gained fame and notoriety because of its subject matter. This novel is the story of a young girl who becomes possessed by demonic forces that not only take her over completely, these forces control her whole house. The author writes of a strong odor that permeates the room⎯so powerful that one can smell it upon entering the house. The young girl’s room is upstairs! Doors slam on their own, beds are lifted off the floor and cold temperatures permeate every room. The demon causes the child to vomit green matter and to turn her head 360 degrees. This is thrilling. And so very frightening! After I finished reading this one I had to destroy the novel before I could sleep. And then to compound matters, a film was adapted to the novel. I had to see the movie because I did not believe they would be able to reproduce the horror in that thrilling novel. And they did it. And this was before the days of CGI. It goes without saying that demonic possession is misfortune at its worst, and to witness it on the big screen was quite stressful.
In “A False Start,” a hit-and-run driver kills a woman at the beginning of the story. This unfortunate event paves the way for another character to escape a life of constant mental and physical abuse. The accident by itself was earth shattering, but as the reader dives into the story, one unlucky break leads to another, and soon the main character is running for her life. The suspense is created at every move she makes. Her life’s pitfalls help to create the necessary ingredients for a thriller. Chaos reigns supreme!
For many years authors have woven tales in which characters are beset by some of the most unfathomable circumstances. In spite of obvious doom, These characters stand and meet whatever come their way. Sometimes they survive and end up in a better place and sometimes they do not. But that’s okay, because we as readers go along for the ride. We keep turning the pages until we reach the end. And we close the book with a degree of satisfaction. We’ve been taken on a thrilling adventure, and for a short time forget about our own lives as we experience the lives of the character in the story. We gain pleasure from the misfortune created for us by an author who sat down and put his best efforts forward to write a thriller. It was the duty of the writer to mold these unfortunate events into a story. And when this duty is done well the result is another bestselling thriller novel to add to the covetous list of best-sellers. Dear reader, do not despair, if it’s thrills you want, a plethora of reading is available by clicking a button in this age of e-books, downloading, and then settling back to read. Enjoy!
Not typed as opposed to handwritten. The best thriller novels fit into a type.
The types we see most often are as follows:
As the words suggest a spy thriller is about espionage. Espionage is the practice of spying or using spies, typically by governments to obtain political and military information. On the list of best spy thriller novels “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” is always at the top. This novel was written by John Le Carre. In this first thriller, Le Carre writes about a British agent in Cold War Berlin who keeps the double agents (Spies) under his care alive and unrercover. When they start being killed the agent, Alec Leamas, has to go into Communist territory to find out why.
This type of thriller is centered around solving a mystery in a fast-paced, suspenseful environment. In “A Moving Screen,” a serial killer has murdered women at will, twice a year on June 16 and June 24 for the past three years. The police have no clue to the identity of this killer or what his motives are. The reader is immediately thrown into the story on June 16, 2008. A fast-paced race ensues to stop the killer before he strikes again and goes undercover until the next year.
This type of thriller has a character who is mentally disturbed. On the list of best psychological thrillers is “Misery” by Stephen King. This is a story about a mentally disturbed former nurse who rescues her favorite author in a snow storm. She turns cruel when she realizes the heroine of most of her favorites, Misery Chastain, has just died in his latest novel.
SCIENCE FICTION THRILLER
This type of thriller focuses on the world of fantasy. On the list of best science fiction thrillers is “Dracula” by Bram Stoker. Dracula is a vampire.
Read the best thriller novels of 2016.Kris Allis has written a great thriller novels which is great for adults too.A best thriller novel is hard to put down.
Most writers will say they write a novel by asking themselves “What if…?” They see an incident and they wonder what would happen if something else occurs. The something else is, of course the ‘What if?” The story comes when the question is answered. Or in other words, the answer is the story. Naturally we all know that a ‘what if’ question in conversation can usually be answered in three sentences or less. But three sentences don’t make a novel. Novels have chapters. And page after page. And here is where the mandate comes into play.
All the best thriller novels heed the mandate.
The mandate states that the reader has to have a reason to keep reading.
In my first novel “A False Start,” I asked myself the question “What if someone survived 9/11 and didn’t tell their loves ones?” The next question was “Why would someone do that?” And my story was born. I not only had to answer why, I also had to answer who and how? Before I knew it I had a cast of characters telling this impossible story through their words and actions. They made it believable. I wrote so that my readers would continue to turn the page. I had to heed the mandate.
In her first novel “Where Are the Children?” Mary Higgins Clark answered the question “What if a mother lost her children twice?” She proceeded to create characters and circumstances to answer that impossible question. And boy did she have her work cut out! But she did it. And as a reader, I kept turning the pages. She heeded the mandate.
Authors of the best thriller novels treat the mandate like a commandment:
Thou shalt write a thriller in a manner that ensures the reader will keep reading.