You can’t beat a good dark and twisted thriller novel. I enjoy the unsettled feeling a good thriller gives me. The powerful thriller plot twists are exhilarating too and I urge the thriller author to treat me a bit rough (in the book sense) and yank the carpet out from under my feet. I want the plot to twist and turn so much I become an emotional mess.
By the end I want to be left gasping, their book in one hand and in the other a large glass of wine (which I poured myself near the end, as the tension mounted).
As a thriller reader I demand unreliable narrators, dark desires being played out with serious consequences, terrible secrets and hidden crimes.
I write romantic comedy novels and tend to read only romance, but I do love what I call a thriller reading break. With thrillers I can let myself go, put my writer brain away and really enjoy a good book.
So I started thinking about the stages a reader goes through whilst reading a great thriller.
- Identifying with the main character stage. Those clever thriller writers are writing books with characters leading lives which are frighteningly similar to our own. As you read the first few chapters you start to murmur, “oh my goodness she is like me,” and “wait….nooooo….they have a similar marriage to my own!” Gasp. These characters are ordinary people with jobs, families, long commutes, toxic friendships and social media obsessions. It’s so easy to put yourself in the character’s shoes. Once you start identifying with the main character in a thriller there is no hope for you or your emotions.
- You stop saying things which make sense stage. You are so engrossed in the thriller you lose the ability to say stuff which makes sense. It’s not surprising this happens as a good thriller author will be chucking a load of possible clues at you, cranking up the tension and if they are sneaky setting up some early plot twist reader traps. So when someone asks you what your book is about you can only mutter, “she did this…thing years ago…and he…and..oh….nooooooo…he…went…” (voice fades away). In other words absolute nonsense.
- The reveal of the dark desire stage. Love this stage in a thriller! This is when a dark desire is revealed and you find yourself at first looking horrified at the page….and then your face starts to change as you process this desire. Within a few minutes you have the hint of a smile showing and you can be heard muttering, “oh you naughty person!” These characters who seem so like us act out the stuff we would never dream of doing, (but occasionally think about in our heads). Gasp.
- The screaming at the main character from the sofa stage. The pesky thriller author has done a brilliant job by raising the tension. You are perched on the end of your seat frantically reading, with a trembling hand. Your emotions are running high as you imagine yourself entering that dark and sinister house. You know the killer is waiting for the main character and you are screaming ‘NOOOOO!”
- The aftermath of the thriller. A good thriller will leave you feeling unsettled and emotionally wrung out. For days afterwards you will get ‘thriller flashbacks’ and suddenly feel a bit strange. You may ever start to question stuff in your life after reading a good thriller. Who can you really trust? A good thriller is something you will always remenber reading.
Bless all those thriller authors out there! You are doing a great job.