Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Inarticulate Major Premise

Have been struggling through a novel by an author I met years ago at an editor's party.
He claimed to be, and may have been, a member of the SOE during WW2.
The intelligence world was his plot, his backstory and his platform.
No one was ever a mere clerk in some unobtrusive office in London during the war, now were they?
Made me wonder - whatever would thriller writers do without wars? Hot or cold?
Wonder if the fall of the Berlin Wall fell smack on the careers of whole wads of thriller writers.
The grinding of shifting gears must have been loud and long as the backdrop changed to drug running, secret cults, post-apocalyptics, even historicals or SF.
Fortunately, for writers, human nature is what it is and we seldom have any lengthy period without a major, viable, exploitable, conflict resource.
Thing is, certain settings, scenarios and characters have a built-in thrill factor.
An automatic association of suspense and danger, a certain suspension of disbelief by the reader. A definite expectation by the reader, in fact, of violence, viciousness, bodies and betrayals.
No surprise that the most popular heroes are often policemen or undercover agents or body guards and such.

Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.
Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when running late.
Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.


Erik Ivan James said...


Hmmm...some woman called me one of those just the other day. Foolish me, I thought she was telling me how handsome I was.

anna said...

Bernita, do you get up in the night to write these posts??
Just recently I read, 'Strange Meeting' by Susan Hill. It's one of those books that stay with you forever. It's old, early 1970's. The setting is WW1. Extraordinary. Should be required reading for all who even consider writing about wars.

Bernita said...

Trying to sell us another "bridge," Erik?

No, Anna, just been waking up waay too early lately.
Just don't drop it on us like that... why should it be required reading?

MissWrite said...

I absolutely loved all three of your gigglers. I know a lot of ignoranus's.

As for thrillers, the ultimate battle between good and evil will always exist in the nature of human existance, we have no fear of running out of plot lines. :)

Ric said...

One of my great finds when younger, was Sax Rohmer. He wrote great stories around 1910 or so about the "YELLOW PERIL".
There will always be bad guys.
I like bad guy, bank 'em up, stuff - sometimes.
Dead bodies on page 3 - sure to get an editor's attention.

Carla said...

Some of the non-fiction accounts of SOE missions knock any thriller into a cocked hat, in my view - I'm thinking of the Telemark raid, Violette Szabo's story, the Vercors uprising, that sort of thing. And this is before you get into the gadgets that Q would have been proud of, like the exploding dog turds. Who was the author you were reading, Bernita?

Bernita said...

It's no question, however, that real life intrigue facilitates the plot, Tami.

One of my favourite Sax Rohmer's, Ric, is a tattered copy of "Tales of Secret Egypt."

So true, Carla, The White Rabbit, The Two Jacks - just off the top of my head.
If I remember right, exploding shit was extensively tested at Camp X - near where I used to live.
Jack H. Crisp.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Hooray for violence! Er, I mean...

Ahem. Absolutely, thriller writers need these inherently enormous conflicts.

I think another big mainstay of thrillers is the anti-hero -- the ex-con, the spy, the vigilante. These folks have plenty of danger. And they work well in war settings. :-)

Scott said...

I'm counting on America's fascination with crime and murder for my current work. Hope you're right.

MissWrite said...

Absolutely Bernita. But see that's just it, the ultimate war of good and evil, in whatever form it takes--especially human will always exist because it exists within ourselves.

Bernita said...

In fact any occupation which carries conflict as part of the territory, Sonya.

A sure thing, Scott.

I'm just sayin', Tami, that the thriller genre benefits from society's conscious awareness of visible and/or remembered conflicts.
It would be a stretch/require a lot of fancy footwork to base a contemporary story on a plot about the Canadian government's plans to subvert the US.
If a hero/ine is a cop, for example, the writer does not need to spend time explaining how s/he may have a gun and know how to use it. Or if he's an ex-special ops, how/why he can react immediately to disarm, disable or maim.

EA Monroe said...

It would be a stretch/require a lot of fancy footwork to base a contemporary story on a plot about the Canadian government's plans to subvert the US.
Heehee, Bernita. I thought it was the other way around -- US government subverting Canada and Mexico! Some conspiracy theorists I know are working hard on that plot. ;-) ...back to my encrypting. I'd tell you about it, but well, you know how that ends...

Steve G said...

Us lovers of the written word, who want to write, need fodder for our stories. There's enough in the news for all of us.

Bernita said...

Slightly, very slightly, more believable than the other though, EA.
Once had passing acquaintance with a conspiracy nut - a real black helicopter type of guy - who, every time there was an exercise at Fort Drum, expected tanks to rumble across the International Bridge.

Some of those news stories, if fictionalized,are so unusual people would consider them waaay too impossible, Steve!

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I will now be thinking of exploding shit for the rest of the day.

While I LOVED Bodie Thoene's series on the new states emerging in Palestine and Israel in 1948, with all the secrecy involved in smuggling European Jews back into Israel, I must admit I'm Cold War baby. I grew up on James Bond (books and films) and there's just no menace like the Soviet machine. I ache for Checkpoint Charlie- those were spies!

Blogger has apparently decided I don't officially exist; I'll have to sign my name myself.

Robyn- Snarkling Clean

Erik Ivan James said...

Bernita, Dear Gal, when did I ever try to sell you the "first" bridge.

Bernita said...

Oh, if I went back through the comments, Erik, I'm quite sure I could find an example....

Bernita said...

Holy horse droppings, Batman!
Yep, that certainly seemed like the Golden Age of spying, Robyn.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Thrill writers are like politics...there's always something new coming down the pike!

I love the first word in your list today *snort*

Shesawriter said...

It takes a very talented writer to take a seemingly dull character and craft an interesting story.

Case in point: Forrest Gump. :-)

scribbit said...

Hipatitis. Very funny. Dare I ever hope to achieve it?

Bernita said...

Yep, always a new or renewed threat du jour, Bonnie.

Um, yes, Tanya. Unfortunately leaves me out.

Cool is good, Scribbit, "terminal"- not so good.