I must be losing my sense of adventure. That, or I am simply getting old. Books that would leave me unable to sleep or have me snatching a glance at yet another paragraph to see if murder most foul had been committed or some other heinous crime no longer suit my nervy temperament. My adrenaline glands are fatigued. So says my doctor. No more excitement for you!
The term “gripping psychological thriller” used to be like a shot of the best red wine through my veins which, incidentally, I can’t tolerate any more. Now it’s becoming an overworked marketing strapline. I should know, it’s partly the genre I work in. So many books buzz around on Amazon with dramatic headlines the books don’t deserve. Obviously I am not mentioning any here but I’m sure you’ve read stuff that neither lives up to the hype nor complies with some trades descriptions act.
Keeping people in suspense for 80,000 words is no mean feat for the writer and I wonder how many books are abandoned because either the reader is disappointed after a few chapters or being of a certain disposition can’t cope with the suspense provided by the unreliable narrator ( a new bit of jargon I’ve recently acquired). Can your nerves take another fictional garrotting or are you becoming so inured to blood and gore that it leaves you feeling cold? Are we being offered templates of similar storylines, defective characters and unrealistic interaction? In short, has the psychological thriller had its day? Probably not but I think it needs freshening up a bit.
A lot has been written about this genre but here’s my tuppence ha’penny worth.
One important ingredient for a psychological thriller is to get into the minds of those who are suffering and not necessarily the character responsible for inflicting the pain. It’s easier to do if you are weaving in some personal experiences as you can write from the inside out. This is what I’ve done in my two books to date. It’s more important to show how this suffering plays out – out of character behaviour, unexplainable mood swings and changes in perception – rather than forensics or police procedures. Even plot takes a bit of a back seat.
The most ordinary and balanced of people can find themselves responding to a threat or a loss in the most extraordinary ways. I talk to many of these people through the counselling work I offer. When it comes to emotions, nothing is predictable yet I find myself wanting to shake some of the characters I read about because either they don’t come across as authentic or to use some recent vernacular like “snowflakes.”
As for me, I need a break from grubbing around in twisted psyches and have turned to something softer and less rooted in harsh reality, at least for the summer, to give my nerves a rest.