PDA

View Full Version : How much characterisation and action in thrillers?, What's the right balance?



Dark Sim
04-20-2006, 12:20 AM
In thrillers in general, how much characterisation should one have, and how much action/suspense?

For instance, do people like reading lots of characterisation that goes on for pages and pages (for the purpose of building up the character's background - it might actually be a set up for a later scene but the reader wouldn't necessarily know it at the time)? Or do readers like it to feel like it has a specific point at that time that drives the story along?

To illustrate my question further - in many films and tv shows, the characterisation doesn't drag for scenes, but is interspersed with the main plot, with sometimes just a few lines (sometimes even only lasting a few seconds or minutes) revealing a bit about the characters in each "characterisation" scene. Do people like that sort of thing in a book or do you prefer fuller, more fleshed-out scenes?

Couldn't scenes where people are just talking to each other (seemingly about nothing at the time (although it might actually turn out to be relevant later)) seem a bit soapish or even cringeworthy, especially in a thriller? Or are readers able to put aside the constant need to feel something of intrigue or suspense is going on or that an action scene is coming up right around the corner?

In other words, can novels be more drawn out than the MTV-style short scenes in a film/tv show?

What do you think?

Linda Adams
04-20-2006, 01:53 AM
In other words, can novels be more drawn out than the MTV-style short scenes in a film/tv show?

A novel is not like a TV show or a film. The structure of TV and films is very different because of the time limitation and the visual medium. Audiences get a 90 minute rush of action, but a reader of a thriller might be with a book for weeks, and obviously, all they have is what's on the page. Unlike a film, where an actor creates characterization, it's up to the writer exclusively to do that in a book. Reading other thriller novels will give you a better idea of what the writers are doing than comparing books to films.


Couldn't scenes where people are just talking to each other (seemingly about nothing at the time (although it might actually turn out to be relevant later)) seem a bit soapish or even cringeworthy, especially in a thriller?

The characterization needs to be appropriate for the story, and scenes need to have a reason for being in the story. Two characters talking about seemingly nothing will come across as nothing to the reader, who may put the book down and not see later how important it is. Something should always be happening to keep the story moving forward, and it needs to be obvious to the reader what it is (there can be more subtle things besides the obvious, though). The "something" doesn't have to be high action, high thrillers--it just has to be interesting to the reader and relevant to the story and the characterization.



Or are readers able to put aside the constant need to feel something of intrigue or suspense is going on or that an action scene is coming up right around the corner?



Too much suspense for too long actually kills the suspense because it all starts to feel the same. All good thrillers have peaks and valleys where the pacing slows down and gives the reader a break.


how much action/suspense?

Depends on the subgenre of thriller. A legal thriller isn't going to have a lot of action. An action-adventure will have more than all the other subgenres. Reading the subgenre you're writing for will give you a feel for what's appropriate.

Jamesaritchie
04-20-2006, 04:10 AM
I don't want to read page after page after page of characterization in any kind of novel. I think great characters make the best reading in any genre, but page after page after page is always too much. Characterization, even highly in-depth, not not take multiple pages to do.

Good characterization nearly always comes in small chunks, small actions, small thoughts, etc. It's how, not how much.

And thrillers, of course, are not a single thing. Thrillers differ more than pretty much any genre I can think of, and so does teh characterization invlolved.

But page after page after page, no, never, not even in a Dickens novel.