58 internautes sur 60 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
C. J. Singh
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Reviewed by C J Singh
Of the more than 50 fiction-craft books I have reviewed, I have yet to read one that's as instructive and witty as this book, except for the three earlier publications by James N. Frey:
How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling;
How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II: Advanced Techniques For Dramatic Storytelling; and my personal favorite
The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth
Throughout the new book, Frey refers the reader to his earlier fiction-craft books. Understandably so. If the content of those books were included, the Thriller book would be almost 900 pages long.
Frey dedicates this book to "The memory of the Greek poet Homer, the greatest thriller writer of all time." He begins by making a basic distinction between mystery and thriller: "In a mystery, the hero has a mission to find a killer. In a thriller, the hero has a mission to foil evil" (page xiii). "Snooty literary types, in between nibbles of their Brie cheese, will look down their aquiline noses and deride the thriller as being a `morality tale.' And you know what? They're right for once. It's true my friend, a thriller is a morality tale." He quotes from John Gardner's "On Moral Fiction": "Moral fiction attempts to test human values, not for the purpose of preaching or peddling a particular ideology, but in a truly honest and open-minded effort to find out which best promotes human fulfillment."
In the first chapter, "Germinal Ideas," Frey notes: "The ancient pattern for the thriller that has not changed in thousands of years is this: A clever hero has an `impossible' mission to foil evil. The hero is brave; he or she is in terrible trouble; the mission is urgent; the stakes are high; and it's best if the hero is self-sacrificing for others" (page 11). The contemporary example cited is the literary thriller, "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" by John le Carre (1963; film 1965), later acclaimed by Publisher's Weekly as `the best spy thriller of all time.'
In the second chapter, "What You Should Know Before You Start Pounding the Keys," are the seven pillars of a damn good thriller and a warning that if "you leave any one out you may fail" (page 37):
1. High stakes;
2. Unity of opposites (the hero cannot run away from the challenge);
3. Seemingly impossible odds;
4. Moral Struggle (the hero locked in desperate struggle with manifest evil);
5. Ticking Clock;
7. Thriller type characters (both heroes and villains must be very clever).
In the third chapter, "All About Your New Best Friend, Your Villain," he cites the character-creation process in Lajos Egri's classic The Art Of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis In The Creative Interpretation Of Human Motives. Before beginning a step-sheet outline of your character-driven thriller, write detailed notes on each main character's physiology, sociology, and psychology. This is taken wholly from Lajos Egri, and most of other craft techniques from Syd Field's pioneering "The Screenwriter's Workbook."
Throughout the book, Frey cites novels and films such as Ken Follett's "Eye of the Needle," Stephen King's "Shining," Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove," William Blatty's "The Exorcist," Lawrence Kasdan's "Body Heat," and M. Night Shymalan's "The Sixth Sense."
Moreover, Frey shows, step-by-step, the process of creating his thriller-in-progress "Peace Day." The germinal idea: "A bunch of young adults in their teens and twenties from the turbulent Middle East and elsewhere, calling themselves the International Association of the Sane, have met on the Internet...They are going to have a conference in the birthplace of the UN -- San Francisco--to hammer out an agreement to settle the Middle East crisis using peace, love, and world opinion as their weapons....Now here's the thriller element: A villain wants to sabotage the conference and menace a bunch of sympathetic characters. I don't know who he is at the moment, but I'll make him up" (pages 31-32). He does. Interspersed in the chapters are pages (by my quick count one fourth of the book's total) devoted to his "Peace Day" thriller-writing project, constituting a teach-yourself craft example.
Frey concludes his book with this exhortation: "Remember that you are creating dreams that others will dream.... Before the Nazis incinerated the Jews, the Gypsies, and the Communists, there were fiction writers demonizing these groups. Fiction writers created the Native Americans as heartless, heathen savages before the cavalry rode out to annihilate them. Fiction writing is a great responsibility.... Resist the temptation to create thrillers full of mindless violence. Such thrillers are nothing more than bloody pornography, and it should be beneath you to create such dreck, no matter how many BMWs it will buy you" (pages 248-49).
To that I say, "Amen."
-- C J Singh
7 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I have studied a lot about writing, read umpteen books on it, but never specifically to my genre. When James Frey's book How to Write a D*** Good Thriller (St. Martin's Press 2010) came out, I grabbed it. What's the first thing I learned? I have been making a lot of mistakes. The next thing I learned was how to fix them. Thankfully, he promised that doing this was 'not brain surgery'.
In this book, Frey reviews first novel writing in general, then thriller in detail. The way thrillers are plotted (characters always in danger; one ends and another pops out of the scenery), their characters developed (moral, bigger-than-life but flawed), crises handled (each gets the main character into worse trouble) and the pace of action (constant, never take a breath) is why readers pick them. Compare those characteristics to literary fiction, where characters get time to smell the roses while they introspectively muse over life. If my WIP's characters consider the quirkiness of their existence, it better be while they're fleeing for their life.
I didn't know that when I started Frey's book, and that's just one of the 'rules' I missed when I set out to write thrillers. Here's another. Mysteries and thrillers are often confused,but consider this:
In a mystery, the hero has a mission to find a killer.
In a thriller, the hero has a mission to foil evil--and it must be an impossible mission.
That's a big difference.
There's also big difference in audience--people who choose thrillers rather than mysteries, literary fiction, biographies, etc. Thriller readers like their main characters to be heroes. They set out to save the world and succeed. Doing their best won't work. Not in a thriller. Main characters should also be moral, patriotic, believing in the goodness of mankind and tolerant of mistakes. That might sound like a stereotype, but your artistry as a writer will keep it fresh. Consider country-western music. It's always about dogs, trucks, mama and prison, but there are tens of thousands of songs beloved by millions of fans. How's that for artistry.
Frey covers the varieties of thrillers from political to the little-known comic. He tells us the importance of a villain to thrillers--so important, the author should consider them a new best friend. Know as much about the villain as you do the hero so both are believable, and when the reader is asked to accept that the villain might stop the hero, its a real concern. Frey discusses voice--I didn't know that 99% of thrillers are written either in first person past tense or third person past tense.
Luckily, my WIP falls into the latter so I don't have to start a complete rewrite.
Another issue he discusses is where to start the novel. That's more difficult than it sounds. Often, as I'm editing my mss, I find the more I cut at the beginning of a chapter, the better it reads. Thrillers have to be action-action-action. That stuff we-all include that isn't, must be cut. Every sentence must be action. Every paragraph. If it isn't, change it. The gist of a thriller is a well-motivated character overcoming increasingly difficult obstacles in pursuit of a worthy and impossible goal. When you 'hang your character out on the horns of a dilemma', you have the audience gripped. Where does that leave room for an involved discussion on the garden outside the house or the landlady's dog?
Not unexpectedly for a how-to book on writing, Frey discusses plot, characters, scenes, but always the unique characteristics that apply to thrillers. He does this by showing-not-telling, sharing excerpts from great thrillers and explaining how they work.
Spoiler alert: I'm going to share Frey's rules on making a D*** good climax. Check off with me whether yours accomplishes these goals:
In almost all d*** good thrillers, the hero is nearly killed in the climax but manages to kill or capture the villain and to foil his evil plot (check)
In the climax of a d*** good thriller, good prevails over evil (check)
The climax of a d*** good thriller is not just more of the same old stuff we've seen before. (ch-eck, I hope)
In the climax of a d*** good thriller, there are surprises (check)
Often in the climax, the hero discovers something about himself or gains insight into the human condition (Hmmm... Let me think about this)
Sometimes a hero experiences a loss at the climax (check)
Sometimes the hero dies in the climax (nope. I'm writing a serial)
If you didn't check off all of those, buy the book. Frey will tell you how to do it. As a bonus, he asks all thriller writers to take a pledge to writer their novel in the manner of a thriller. Check pg. 247. It's as much a how-to list as a pledge.
Overall, every thriller writer who's never read a book on their genre should buy this, read it, and keep it in their reference library. Remind yourself what must be in every chapter to make your story a credible nail-biting experience.