1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Does a thriller have to be 'climatic'?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ryan Elder, Dec 15, 2015.

    I was told before on a story by readers that they felt that certain plot twists and turns were implausible. Personally I am use to that happening in a story, and I can often see implausibilities in stories. Not that that's necessarily bad for me. A lot of times I do not mind characters behaving implausibly, as long as they are not behaving impossibly.

    I rewrote a whole new story outline, where the characters behave much more plausibly I think, but I feel it builds towards an anticlimax as a result. Since everyone behaves in the most plausible way possible, I feel that nothing crazy or shocking really happens. It feels too predictable, because the more plausible a person behaves, the more predictable it can be, and everyone has to stay in their own boxes and not be able to come out and take the story in climatic directions because of it.

    I also feel that since it's a thriller, most thrillers as they build more and more towards the end, the pacing becomes faster and faster traditionally, because the steaks are raised and the race against time is running out and closing in.

    But when I wrote my new outline so that everyone behaves much more plausibly, the pacing actually slows down, because since it gets more complicated, it actually takes longer for characters to resolve their problems and it kind of slows down, instead of building faster, as traditionally thrillers do.

    What do you think? Should I go against my instincts, and write the story with an outline where characters behave the most plausibly, even if it builds towards an anticlimax? If plausibility is more important to the reader than I can, but will a lot of people still find an anticlimax disappointing for thriller genre expectations?
     
  2. Jeff Countryman
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    Jeff Countryman Living the dream Supporter

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    A very interesting question/topic. You'll likely get a balance of answers arguing for each side with equal points for each.

    I'm a deep-reader and prefer deep characters with lots of story surrounding them, so , to me, this would be a breakout novel in that aspect, and I like it!!! :)

    If your followers aren't used to this type of writing from you . . . then re-think it. Give the audience what they want????

    Personally, I think it's a great thing for the genre ----> Give those characters a history and make it PLAUSIBLE.

    So, my vote it for plausible with the anti-climax.
     
  3. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    I'm big on plausibility. I can't watch Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer movies for this reason. When I wrote my thriller novel I took great pains to make my characters actions believable. I frequently asked myself how I would react in their situation. I also told this particular story from multiple points of view, which made it more challenging but also allowed for more variety. The most important thing I did to make it believable but interesting was to allow my characters to make mistakes. Some were little; others were colossal blunders. The mistakes also had to be plausible but not readily apparent. My MC was not a superhero, CIA operative or anything like that so the things she did wrong were easily explained away by her lack of experience.

    Example: near the end she is chased in an old pickup truck by a gangster driving a newer SUV. While she has learned to be a good driver she is not used to the loose steering and lazy responses of the truck shes driving. This ultimately causes her to lose control and crash, leading up to the climactic confrontation with her pursuer. She is able to kill him because he makes a blunder. His is much smaller, but all she needed was a tiny opportunity...and was able to grab it.

    My character then learns from her mistakes and does not make (most) of the same ones again in the second book. She evolves over the course of my stories but she is never perfect. Hope this helps.
     
  4. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    It helps a bit. But I was told that my character's mistakes are part of the problem and some of their mistakes make them look stupid to the reader, and they wouldn't make such mistakes.
     
  5. Mr. Galaxy
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    Mr. Galaxy Member

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    I think a "thriller" to be called such, must be... thrilling. Otherwise it's probably something else.
     
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  6. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    What kind of mistakes are we talking about?
     
  7. datahound2u
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    datahound2u Member

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    I've read a few novels that claimed to be thrillers, with the requisite build up of tension and suspense, but the endings were somewhat anticlimactic, and I felt very cheated.

    I guess it all comes down to whether you write for yourself or you write for your readers.
     
  8. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Indeed. You can have a courtroom drama outside of the thriller genre--just look at Snow Falling on Cedars. Surely you can have stories about crime or police activity as well. The difference is in the writing. I think the question really is, who is your target audience? If you're writing for the thriller market, you do have a more restricted ability to write what you want, since the market has specific expectations. If you're writing for a more "general" audience, then maybe you're more in the literary or general fiction space. That gives a lot more freedom.

    My two pennies.
     
  9. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I think my story is more geared to the thriller audience, but it slowly builds towards an anticlimax. I mean I was told before that I need to make my characters more logical. But the most logical person would not make a decision that would cause themselves to be painted into a climax. So how can you have 'thrills', when the most logical person would make the smartest decisions, and eliminate any trouble, and therefore not so much of a climax, as a result? How do you write a character to be 'plausibly risky', as oppose to risky to the point of unbelievably stupid, to the reader?
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You need to come up with better obstacles. Not ones that any smart person can easily eliminate. Give the characters a real challenge.
     
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  11. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. One thing is, is that I wanted the main character to work alone in getting the villain and not calling the police. The villain is not a cop, and is just a serial killer type though. Do you think that is a problem? Perhaps the obstacle is not big enough, and I need to make the majority of the police force bad maybe, for an MC to not call them or something?
     
  12. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    @Ryan Elder I think anyone aiming for a particular genre (such as this one, you shooting at the thriller category) should really go to school on the typically accepted conventions of that genre and then frame within those conventions. I'm NOT saying make it cookie cutter textbook-ish, and I'm NOT saying you can't fly with a completely original off the map MS that catches everybody off guard. Just saying I'd shoot at the sort of rudiments of that genre if I wanted to be received well.

    A lot of 'real writers' would reject what I just said thinking they sully or lessen their purity by thinking commercially. But I only mentioned this because that seems to be what you are hoping for in the long run.

    Also, I think in any genre a story that escalates is a more satisfying read for the average reader. Certainly this fits the thriller genre, I think.

    :pop:
     
  13. Jaiden
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    I haven't read any of the comments, just the OP, but I can see exactly what you mean if you have characters that tick the boxes of regular people doing regular things. Or even weird people doing weird things, neither will automatically build to tension and shock and coma-inducing climaxes the country over. I don't have many characters that are totally sane and steer the plot, I usually have them around to be real-world fluff that allow more extravagant people to take centre stage. However, there are many ways to achieve conflict and tension and the thrills that go with each...

    - Natural disaster.. Pretty self-explanatory. It's out of the hands of any decision-making process, or maybe someone did something that can be perceived as being the reason it happened (shouting loudly on a snow-capped mountain, only to be faced with a potential avalanche). Basically, 'God did it' and that's the only excuse you really need in that situation.

    - As writers, when we think of a problem we also try to couple it with a solution, which has a tendency to make the initial problem appear too easy to solve. So lets say my kid writes to Santa Claus and asks him for this and that, only he doesnt show me the list, and he wants to be with me when we post it. Maybe I'm smart enough to think "right, ill do another envelope and post that instead, and then be the best dad in the world because my kid thanks me for Santas gifts". But then I send the wrong one! It's christmas time, lots to do, just made a mistake. Easily explained. But now it's in the post box, so I go back and there is the postman driving away! Obviously this is a shit example because you'd make sure your kid wrote it on carbon copy sheets and be laughing all the way until your next bank statement came in. I digress, but I'm saying have little obstacles that make it harder and harder to resolve the conflict. Or throw a fucking volcanic eruption at them and watch them burn.

    - (okay, I sneaked a peak at what you replied with). So you have a cop who wants to engage a villain, but the MC doesnt want to involve the cops? Maybe he hates cops. Maybe he used to work in a doughnut shop and all these cops kept coming in, being assholes, telling bullshit stories, and generally making his life miserable. Maybe he used to be in jail or he believes cops to be corrupt. I could go on and on, but you've got to create an obstacle that cannot be scaled. Prejudices are usually born of something, whether it is significant or otherwise, if it matters to the character then it'll usually explain itself.

    My own viewpoint would be not to worry too much about how it will sell, but more in that you should put out a piece of work that reflects you and your experiences. Criticism is there to temper and to reign you in, it isn't there to decide your designs and plans for you. Write what you want, how you want, and listen to people when they give you advice. But if you weigh up their advice and don't think it stands up to the way you want to go about your story, throw their advice in the bin and get back to writing/editing.
     
  14. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Predictable/unpredictable comes more from obscuring essential character traits than it does from plot.

    For instance, if your character is peace-loving, but must go into a rage to win the climactic battle, hint at the temper he holds in check. If you do it right, that peace-loving hippy will gouge the eyes out of any villain if the right stakes are presented.

    Read Dwight V. Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer, specifically the chapter on Beginnings, Middles and Ends. Of course, you'll probably want to read the rest of it to put that chapter in context. :)
     

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