Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

July 10, 2009

Which is Best for Thriller Writers – Read Books or Watch Movies

Filed under: On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 3:00 PM

It was said that many of Crichton’s books were written to be easily turned into movies.

What does that  mean to thriller and action/adventure novelists?

I for one watch hundreds of more movies than I read books. We are told by those in the know that novelists should read books from other authors in their genre.

As far as thriller and action/adventure novels are concerned, I don’t agree. They should watch movies – lot’s of them.

I believe that a good fast easy to digest action/adventure thriller should read like a movie. Of course books like that do not qualify as a great American novel. Yet, they provide a good read, entertaining and most probably quickly forgotten.

If one watches the construction of a thriller or action/adventure movie, you see that almost all the time there is an action hook within the first few minutes of the film after the credits.  Then the movie takes a some time introducing the main characters. Then an action sequence to hold your attention. More narrative to explain the details of the plot. Then a period or two of fleshing out the character’s background and the motivations they have to do what needs to be done to move the plot forward. Unlike  melodramas and regular novels, this fleshing out can’t be done early in the movie because it slows down the pacing.

Two-thirds through the  movie there is, what is called, a reversal. You can see reversals in romantic comedies too. In fact they are almost always there.

A reversal is when everything seems to going the hero’s way when all of a sudden,a sub plot appears that threatens to send the hero and his objective into the crap can.

This challenge if faced and the movie then hurtles to its climax.

I write my thrillers – Cyberkill and  the Chronicles of Jeremy Nash – like thriller movies. Same sequencing, same pacing.

Anyone agree with me? Not?



  1. […] This post was Twitted by followthenovel […]

    Pingback by Twitted by followthenovel — July 13, 2009 @ 12:56 AM | Reply

  2. Hi,

    Enjoyed your blogs/ articles. Followed you over here from EONS Writers Club (Sharle).

    Will look for you on Twitter and return for follow-ups on your posts.


    Comment by Sharlet Liebel — July 17, 2009 @ 1:55 PM | Reply

    • Thanks Sharlet. Make sure we connect on Twitter. My handle is #followthenovel

      Comment by Frank Fiore — July 17, 2009 @ 1:59 PM | Reply

  3. Probably both…but to craft a good one seeing what works on the page first is important since that is what you’re selling first. It can be fine tuned for the movie format. And I for one did not really enjoy Crichton’s books. I like the added bits that you miss in most movies these days.

    Comment by clbro — July 21, 2009 @ 6:36 PM | Reply

  4. I do both, actually. I try to read the book first and then see the movie, but sometimes I’ll miss the book, see the movie and be inspired to read the book. I like to know how the movie will play out – or see how it changes. That one a few years ago with Eva Longoria as a Secret Service agent and one of Keifer Sutherland — totally different from the book. Hated that!

    Comment by Tracy L. Karol — July 22, 2009 @ 8:30 PM | Reply

  5. I believe thrillers occupy a separate genre, a higher degree of craft to produce than meets the eye. The ‘formula’ sounds easy, until you try to pull it off. With writing in general, I am Old School. I believe great writing starts on the blank page, and is then is transferred to actors on stage, or location. I always read, if I want to improve as a writer–in any genre. I think preparation depends on the nature of the thriller. There is great stimulus and inspiration in viewing well made movies. Some writers work best using that painter’s eye–a visual palette of changing shapes, sounds and colors. Others are more analytical in their creative approach, and capture their ‘thrill’ on paper with well crafted plot and dialogue. Ultimately you are at the mercy of your director.

    Comment by Barbara Bridges — July 23, 2009 @ 1:24 AM | Reply

  6. I do appreciate the point you are trying to make. I have always been an avid reader of action-thrillers.
    Still the ones that could be made into fantastic action movies, like those by Michael Crichton, are many a times great books.

    Comment by gkgaero — July 23, 2009 @ 11:34 AM | Reply

  7. Several interesting points made, especially the one that points out that movies are scripts first. I’d like to add that those scripts have a structure that is shared by novels. Both have a similar 3 or 4 act structure (spine/skeleton) that involves a hook, generally with the main character involved, then the ordinary world (who they are, etc) the first turning point, tests and trials, reversals, black moment when all seems lost, climax, the epiphany and reward. This is not a formula, it’s classic mythic structure and it’s used in both mediums.

    Current contemporary commercial novels are much faster paced than in the past, no matter what genre. Some genres(action and thrillers)move faster than others but the whole market has shifted. We are a USA Today society that deals in sound bites and Tweets, and that doesn’t bode well for the slow moving novel. That, in my opinion, is why writers should still read current novels…we need to know what the editors are buying. All just mho.

    Comment by Linda Style — July 29, 2009 @ 6:39 PM | Reply

  8. Bravo Linda!

    That’s the point I wanted to make. After seven comments and many others on LinkdIn someone gets the point.

    BTW: I live in Phoenix. I think you’re in AZ?g

    Comment by Frank Fiore — July 29, 2009 @ 6:52 PM | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: