In a Thriller mindlessness is invaluable. A mindless character will do anything without thought or consideration for others. Even if the character has to feign insanity, he or she will carry out a designed program. Take the film “Shutter Island” as an example.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the movie as the main character, Teddy Daniels, who is a widower and U S Marshal. Also starring are Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, and Max von Sydow. Teddy is with his new partner Chuck Aule (Ruffalo) on a ferry boat to Shutter Island when the story begins. They are going to Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane to investigate the disappearance of a patient. The suspense begins when Teddy discovers that there is no way the patient could have escaped a locked cell under constant supervision. We learn the patient is there because she killed her children. As the story continues we soon discover that everything is not as it seems. Insanity is running rampant and the climax is a twist on mindlessness. We are left at the end wondering just who is crazy. This film was adapted from the novel of the same name written by Dennis Lehane.
In the novel, “Shutter Island” the author used a mindless character in a terrible situation to illustrate how such a character can create the suspense to keep a reader turning the page in a thriller. The reader continues to read, not knowing what to suspect and in the end he or she is left to create their own ending. In other words, the reader has to use his or her own astuteness to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. I loved this story! It has everything needed to make it a best thriller novel. And an interestingly suspenseful thriller movie.
In “A Moving Screen” the mindless character is Michael. Michael is a serial killer who seems completely rational. As the reader turns the pages, he or she discovers that Michael has put a lot of thought into what he does. He is a killer with a purpose and a plan. It’s just that the reader doesn’t know the plan until the end of the novel, when astuteness is once again called for. “A Moving Screen” has everything needed to rank it among the best thriller novels. In the best thriller movies mindlessness trumps astuteness in a character.
The dictionary defines a bully as a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. Synonyms for a bully are a tyrant or an oppressor. Because of his very nature, a bully is an unwelcome person in any venue. His or her very presence spoils the fun. A bully requires that attention be paid to his or her every move in order to ward off all advances. Protective forces need to be in play when a bully is in the room. In short, most people despise bullies.
However, in the best thriller novels a bully needs to be present in order for the hero of the story to shine through. In John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” the bully is Curley, a man so mean and despicable that he didn’t rate a first and last name. Just Curley. This is a diminutive man who suffers from the “little man syndrome.” As a result, in his position as son of the boss, he feels that he can bully the employees. He especially enjoys bullying Lennie, a mentally challenged worker. Had Curley, the bully, been left out of “Of Mice and Men,” the novel would have lost its intensity. A bully’s actions trumped kindness in creating the suspense in this novel.
In “A Moving Screen,” Michael, the serial killer is a bully. He uses strength and power to subdue his victims so that he can kill them in an unimaginably horrible fashion. He roams cities in the metropolitan Atlanta area for different jurisdictions to dispose of his victims, in order to keep police in the dark. Dennis Cane is a detective who is a bully when it comes to tracking and convicting murderers. Without Dennis Michael would continue to escape justice. He makes it impossible for anyone to stop him. The reader instinctively hopes that Dennis will. Michael is the spark of suspense and thrill needed to make “A Moving Screen” fit the category of a best thriller novel. The fact that the lead detective is a bully on crime makes life difficult for the serial killer in this novel. Bullying trumps complacency!
Deception is the art of trickery. The skill of pretense. Slyness. Deviousness. None of these words are positive. Deception is the most grievous to the person or persons who are its object. As human beings we rely on the truth, until we read a work of fiction. In the most popular book in print it is written: The truth shall make you free. And yet, when we read a good novel, it is deception that will keep us turning the pages. The power of deception is that when it’s done correctly, no one sees it coming until it’s too late. And we like that as readers. A fiction novel is based on imagination, we understand. But a fiction novel that is based on truth could be boring. We need that character who goes one way when we expect him or her to go another. And the character who deceives himself is always a winner.
The novel “Gone Girl” is a master work of deception. The reader begins the novel and is led to believe one thing. As the story continues, everything believed at first is suddenly challenged. To top it off the reader learns that the main character is a clever master of deceit. This leads to the conclusion that such a character can never and should never be trusted. Ironically, it’s impossible to put the book down. With so much deception and only a tad of truth, “Gone Girl” was so popular that it was made into a film by the same name. This story should make every person think twice about infidelity.
The novel “A Moving Screen” is also a master work of deception. The reader turns the page trying to figure out who exactly is Michael. He is hiding in plain sight and getting away with one murder after the other. Rarely do we meet a murderer in a novel and still not know him or her when we encounter them in other parts of the story. So it is with Michael. The deception is a vital part of the story. But that’s what makes a good thriller a best thriller. The effective use of deception. Truth means nothing to a reader who is turning page after page to reach a climax in the story. Readers cheer when they are deceived.
Deception trumps truth in all the best thriller novels.
We value honesty. Yet in the best thriller novels dishonesty trumps honesty.
As we go through our day to day lives, most of us appreciate associating and coming into contact with honest people. We usually purchase a home or an automobile after lengthy conversations and discussions with agents that we trust. Rarely does one make such major purchases from a blatant dishonest person. We value honesty. Yet in the best thriller novels dishonesty trumps honesty.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” was not called a thriller, and yet it fits the genre. It has suspense and mystery. Readers are immediately empathetic to the fear the two children have of mysterious Boo Radley. Almost simultaneously the reader is jettisoned into the case of Tom Robinson who has been accused of raping Mayella Ewell. Mayella is a liar and her father Bob is too. He is also a bully. The theme of the novel is racism. Racism is a dishonest belief that some hold about the human race. It implies that one group of people is superior to another. Without Mayella’s lies and the theme of racism, the novel would have been just another story about a small Southern town. It is the dishonesty that keeps the reader turning the page. Dishonesty trumps honesty. And in my opinion, makes the novel one of the best thriller novels.
“A False Start” is a thriller. Readers immediately become passengers in a red car driven by a heavily intoxicated female driver. She hits a pedestrian and keeps going. She refuses to do the honest thing which would be to stop and greet the police when they reach the scene. Instead she drives all the way from Manhattan to Connecticut where she hides the car. It is her dishonesty that creates a way for another woman to escape an abusive marriage. The reader is drawn into the story from the beginning as one extraordinary event leads to another. A web of deceit is woven. Dishonesty trumps honesty. And, in my opinion, will eventually make the novel one of the best thriller novels.
As a noun the word trump is most often used in card games. The trump is defined as a playing card chosen to rank above the others. As a verb it is defined as to surpass or outdo.
In a thriller novel, as in all novels, there is an antagonist. The antagonist is often referred to as the villain. For a thriller to succeed the villain must be someone that the reader loves to hate. So much hatred is built up for the villain that the only way the reader will be satisfied is if this hated one suffers a horrible fate. Thus in the best thriller novels hate trumps love. Allow me to give some examples.
In 1667 a novel entitled “Paradise Lost” was published. The villain in this novel is of course Satan. According to biblical history, Satan, a beautiful angel, was thrown out of heaven and since then he has walked to and fro looking for those he can destroy. Satan is fully deserving of hatred. Hate trumps love.
In Steig Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” a man called Nils Bjurman is appointed guardian of Lisbeth Salander. Instead of caring for her needs, he rapes and sodomizes her, and refuses to give her the right to withdraw her own money unless she does what he demands. And what he demands is horrible. Lisbeth comes to hate him. When he gets what he deserves, readers are extremely happy. In Bjurman’s case, hate definitely trumped love.
In the novel “Phycho,” by Robert Bloch, Norman Bates is off his rocker. He spends time arguing with his mother, and he kills an unsuspecting woman who checks into his hotel. When the reader learns that Norman’s mother is dead and that he killed her, a sudden desire for vengeance is created. Norman hated his mother because she loved another man, and readers come to hate Norman because he is a psychotic killer. Hate trumps love.
In “A Moving Screen,” Michael has killed two women in June for the past three years. As the novel begins the reader witnesses his first kill. He gives no reason why he does what he does. And the way these women die is unmercifully horrific. The reader instantly hates Michael and turns page after page in anticipation of his making a mistake that leads to his capture. Once again, hate trumps love.
Best selling thriller novels are laden with suspense. Suspense is defined as a state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happ
Best-selling thriller novels are laden with suspense. Suspense is defined as a state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen. When a reader is uncertain about what will happen next he or she will keep reading to find out. Three of my favorites are
“The Firm” by John Grisham
“Chiefs” by Stuart Woods.
And “A Moving Screen.”
It can be purchased at the following:
The best thriller novels are fluent with anticipation. In the best thriller novels one or more of the characters are in peril.
The best thriller novels are PHAT! This acronym refers to the necessary elements of writing that make a thriller novel a success.
P Peril⎯In the best thriller novels one or more of the characters are in peril.Something is going to happen to them. Something bad, dangerous, life-changing,or fatal. It is this peril that creates suspense. It also holds the reader’s attention.
H Harrowing⎯Harrowing is defined as acutely distressing. Being in peril is definitely distressing. To write your best thriller novel, the characters should continuously find themselves in harrowing circumstances.
A Anticipatory⎯ The best thriller novels are fluent with anticipation. The reader turns the pages expecting anything. It is possible for anything to happen is the idea that the thriller novel keeps at the forefront.
T Tense⎯When a reader picks up one of the best thriller novels they immediately encounter a character in peril. Not only is the character in a bad situation, it is a harrowing experience. As the reader turns the page he or she anticipates danger at every corner. How can the reader not be tense? How can the characters not be tense? The best thriller novels keep the actions in the story at a level that inspires tension.
I repeat: the best thriller novels are PHAT.
In “A Moving Screen” the reader meets Michael on the first page. Michael is a budding
serial killer on his first kill. The story progresses, tension mounting, as Michael perfects his craft.
In 2010 a film called “Unstoppable” was released in theaters. This film was based on a real life incident of a runaway train that kept gaining speed and to all outward appearances could not be stopped. A Thriller novel should be written at the same pace as a runaway train. The story should keep moving, gaining speed until it finally reaches the end. The reader should be so involved that putting down the book becomes a challenge. Itﾒs all about pacing in a thriller novel.Pacing controls the speed at which a story is told. In well written thriller the reader should be grabbed from the beginning and pulled along at a rapid pace.The events unfold in a timely manner and not a lot of time elapses in the story.
In “A Moving Screen” the readers immediately find themselves inside a darkened room where a figure with no discerning features is pouring gasoline everywhere.And a woman lies naked on a table. Immediately the reader’s curiosity is aroused.
In Harlan Coban’s “Stay Close,” the first paragraph describes how a photographer,Ray Levine, sees blood. Continuing to read the reader gets to these sentences:
“That horrible moment. the moment when Ray’s life changed completely,transforming him from a man with a future and aspirations into this Grade-A-loser you see in front of you.never visited him in his dreams or when he sat alone in the dark.”
I wanted to know why he saw blood so I kept reading.
With an opening like that an author cannot afford to disappoint. It becomes his or her mission to deliver the rest of the story quickly so that curiosity can be satisfied. And how does an actor do this? With a few techniques such as the following:
ACTION. Action “shows” what happens in a story.
CLIFF HANGERS. When the outcome of a chapter is left hanging, the pace picks up because the reader will continue to turn the page to find out what happens next.
DIALOGUE. Witty, clipped dialogue with little or no need for explanation is swift and moves the story along.
SHORT CHAPTERS. Short chapters are easier to read and they end quickly.WORD CHOICE. Use words that subtly pick up the pace. Action verbs and strong nouns can say more in a few short sentences.
****Avoid complicated prose.
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.
best selling thriller novels have ingredients that make a satisfying and thrilling novel and great movies.
Three of my favorite movies were based on novels. I don’t know what qualities a movie producer and screenplay writer look for in order to bring a novel to life on the big screen, but I can imagine that a lot depends upon the level of suspense of the story and the characters who are tasked with revealing the plot. Memorable characters. Take the novel “Marathon Man.” The main character seems to be quiet, reserved, intelligent, and an introvert. Until he is captured and forced to tell the whereabouts of something that he has no idea exists, much less he knowledge of this thing’s location. Enter the villain, an elderly dentist with no remorse. Naturally torture is the only method he knows to extract information.From the beginning the reader is thrown into the horrible experience⎯unable to stop reading until a glimmer of hope is revealed. “Marathon Man” was a best selling thriller.
Consider the novels about Jason Bourne. Another unforgettable character with unbelievable skills. Skills that he needs for every twist and turn of the nightmare he finds himself in. In “The Bourne Identity,” a man is rescued from the ocean by a ship. He has a bullet wound and no memory of who he is. We later learn through inspiring intrigue that the man is Jason Bourne. “The Bourne Identity” was also a best-selling thriller.
Of course “Carrie” was Stephen King’s first novel. The story of a young girl who was bullied and mistreated in high school. She didn’t choose suicide like so many young people of today. She chose revenge. By simply being herself and using telekinetic powers to show the bullies that they needed to be nice. “Carrie” became a best-selling thriller.
Both plot and main character differ in all of these best-selling thriller novels, but all of them were suspense-filled, intriguing stories rife with excitement and danger⎯delightfully menacing. All the ingredients that make a satisfying and thrilling novel. And great movies!