Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

June 11, 2010

Anatomy of a Thriller

Filed under: CyberKill,On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 4:22 PM

I’m a thriller writer.  I’m told my first novel CyberKill fills that bill.

Did it? What is a thriller? What made CyberKill a thriller?

Linda Adams, writing on Visions: A Resource for Writers, lists six characteristics of a thriller.

  • Thrills
  • Big Storyline
  • Complex Plot
  • Unique Story Structure
  • Credibility
  • Action

Let’s take Thrills, first. Adams says, “Thrillers are exciting and dangerous.  The reader keeps wondering what’s going to happen next, given the unexpected turns, and feels that no character is sacred — a major character may die in the story.”

Looking at CyberKill, I killed off a reasonable number of characters – some that lived throughout the story – then expired.

Next, a big storyline. Adams says, “A thriller isn’t just about someone being murdered.  There is always something bigger and more important at stake behind the murder that may endanger more lives.”

In CyberKill the stakes are as high as can be – the potential extermination of humanity.

Complex plot is next.  Adams says, “Because the storylines are bigger, the plot itself becomes more complex to help pull off the storyline.”

CyberKill presents a complex plot of rogue artificial intelligence, cyber-terrorists, dirty bomb attack, and child stalking. The trick in Cyberkill was to weave the threads of the different plots together so that they form a whole recognizable cloth at the end.

Next is a unique story structure. Adams says, “A thriller may start out looking like it’s about one thing and then take a sudden turn and become something else entirely.  In many cases, the reader does not know what’s at stake until two-thirds of the way into the book.

There was a risk here with CyberKill. Since there were many plot lines it took half the book to really get the action going so I had to create s number of small suspenseful action scenes to keep the attention of the reader.  Also, relationships changed in surprising ways and plot twists made sense.

Credibility, is next.  This is where a thriller can fail. Adams says, “Thrillers often push the boundaries of credibility.  Again, this goes back to the storylines needing to be bigger and more complex.

A lot of research went into CyberKill. And a lot of it turned into chapters was deleted. But even the genetic weapon that was created for the story was believable based on the research that I did. In fact, shortly before publication, the idea that the US had a genetic weapon was ‘outed’ by the Iranian News Agency.

Finally, action.  Adams says, “Where would a thriller be without the action?  Clive Cussler’s Sahara also has two battles on rivers, a gun battle at an airport, escaping on a train, and fights in mines, to name just a few of its action scenes.

CyberKill has actions scenes throughout the book building into a crescendo of action scenes on the last third of the book.

So it may seem that CyberKill fits the definition of a thriller.  Pick up the book and see if I’m right.


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