Monday, November 29, 2010

Three Excellent Plots

So, as promised, here are three plots that TG liked in the last year. This doesn't mean the resulting books were necessarily that fabulous, just that the plots had a lot of promise. Please don't write TG that you went out and bought the books and were disappointed. It's plots were talking about here, people, not execution.

Just to recap. For those of you who have not read the previous two entries (shame!) they focused on Clive Cussler and son and their process of coming up with mind-stretching plots. TG's method of plotting usually consists of discovering an interesting historical event and then writing fiction around that event. (See his alter ego's Pastmaster, time travel series starring historian Alex Balfour.) The Cussler's approach seems to come up with several historical events and then find ways to connect them. They certainly didn't invent this method (though on giving it two seconds of thought, TG wonders if Cussler wasn't right there on the cutting edge of this tactic, at least as it applies to thrillers?) But the connection system, even though it can produce excellent results, seems forced to TG at times. As if those employing it are trying not to just find interesting events that can lead to a connection, but to find two events that are so radically different from each other that to connect them shows brilliance on the part of the writers. Which is not the same as brilliance on the page. And now, TG fears he has strayed too far into what his wife, in commenting on these pages, calls “inside baseball.”

And so, without further ado, three interesting plot ideas:

Venom, by Joan Brady. A new species of honey bee produces a venom that turns out to lead to a serum that cures radioactive poisoning. Bad guys are testing it on unsuspecting residents near Chernobyl. This is a sequel to Brady's Bleedout. Brady can write well, very well, but regular thriller readers used to non-stop action will find it kind of slow. But the whole deal with the bees is cool. Who could have thought of such a thing?

The Capitol Game, Brian Haig. A company discovers a polymer that when painted on military vehicles cloaks them with an invisible barrier that is impenetrable to enemy firepower. A kind of Armor in a Can. The book is not about the polymer, but the predatory companies who seek to own the process and market it. It's a financial thriller, and a damn good one, but TG would have gone with the implications of the polymer under combat conditions. In the hands of one of the genre's military practitioners who specialize in military action, this could have led to terrific battle scenes. Haig, son of former US Secretary of State Alexander Haig, usually concentrates on his wisecracking series hero, JAG lawyer Sean Drummond, and his adventures as a military lawyer. Here he seems to be setting up a new series.

The Cobra, Frederick Forsyth. The U.S. president, disgusted by the horrors wrought by illegal drug trafficking, decides to bring the entire weight and resources of the federal government to bear against the international cocaine trade. The first, and most crucial step, is to declare drug traders and their cartels to be terrorists, subjecting them to new and extensive legal procedures that the government can employ under those conditions. Then he brings in ex-CIA director Paul Devereaux to head the team that will implement the effort. Devereaux, known as The Cobra from his operations days, is old school – smart, ruthless, unrelenting, and bestowed by the president with free rein to call in any arm of the government to support the effort to crush the cartels and their leaders. Forsyth lays out how it would all work, and readers will follow eagerly along, always thinking, yes, why the hell don't they do this in real life? Sadly, Forsyth supplies a convincing answer to that question as well. Many readers might be under the impression Forsyth was dead. After all he's the guy who wrote The Day of the Jackal, which pretty much invented the modern thriller, but no, thankfully, he's still alive and working at the top of his game

There you go. See, it is possible to come up with a new idea. Get to work.


  1. The Cobra definitely sounds interesting, will have to add it to the list of 'need to check it out' books that I have stacking up.

    Now if we can see more real life superhero plots....

  2. Interesting blog. My plots always seem to start with a body... and everything spins out from there.