Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Thriller Procedural

Thriller Guy is in the midst of a real time crunch so he’s going to institute a series of blogs where he deals with a few short ideas in the same entry rather than going in-depth all the time. Though if you add them up, TG supposes, it will take just as long as it would to do the in-depth discussions. So will TG be saving any time? See, it’s wasting time thinking about questions like this that eat into TG’s writing quota, so let’s just move along here.

A couple of weeks ago, TG was reviewing a book and came up with a brand new Thriller genre: The Thriller Procedural. This is obviously a takeoff of the well-known mystery genre, the Police Procedural. The idea in the police version is pretty simple: a crime has been committed and the reader/TV, movie viewer, watches a police department, usually under one or several detectives, as they go about the procedure of investigating that one or several crimes. Examples would be the novels of Ed McBain, George Simenon, Tony Hillerman, and perhaps the greatest of them all (at least in dealing with the police element,) Joseph Wambaugh. (Sidebar from Wikipedia: In 1956, in his regular New York Times column, mystery critic, Anthony Boucher, noting the growing popularity of crime fiction in which the main emphasis was the realistic depiction of police work, suggested that such stories constituted a distinct sub-genre of the mystery, and, crediting the success of Dragnet for the rise of this new form, coined the phrase "police procedural.")

So TG was contemplating the book he was reading, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes, (which he liked) and he realized that with this re-boot of Clancy’s ten-year-old Op-Center series, he was seeing a clear example of the police procedural transposed into the thriller genre. In Op-Center, a terrorist event has occurred and the President of the US tasks a retired four star Admiral with re-establishing a now-mothballed unit, the Op-Center, to hunt down the perpetrators and remain a shadowy existence to persue other terrorists in the future. (And thus reinvigorate an old series into a new moneymaker.) The reader gets to sit at the Admiral’s elbow and watch as he goes about setting up the infrastructure of the unit and the staffing and development of all the various components that will make up the whole. And after he gets his organization built and wound up, the Admiral turns it on and we watch as the members preform their jobs until the mission is successful. There were several other books TG reviewed around the same time that added to this Thriller Procedural notion. Most of the many series in which the term SEAL Team Six is in the titles, or Delta Force or other permutations of Special Forces branches, follow a structural mode that could easily be procedural: terrorist event occurs; secret unit is assigned the job of hunting down the perps; warriors execute the mission with a minimum of twists and referencing the private lives of the characters; conclude the operation in a successful manner; prepare for the next mission. Terrorist Procedural.

Thought for the day, from Lauren Weisberger, who wrote The Devil Wears Prada.
"It's all about setting aside just a little time to write each week. ... Figure out what works and make it completely non-negotiable."

TG has repeated this advice many times, and would add the warning: it’s making it non-negotiable that’s the difficult part. If a writer has not had success, (and success is defined by most non-writers as having had a book or other writing published and/or having made money from the work), his writing time is often seen by family members and friends as a waste of time. Oh, everyone encourages the effort early on, but as time goes by the supporters begin to fade away and some of them actually become antagonistic about what they see as a waste of time. This is where it gets tough for the writer. Thick skin is necessary and anger should be put aside as counter-productive. Until someone tries writing over an extended period, they’re never going to understand the will and self-control it takes.

Remember TG’s mantra: Sit down, Shut up, Get to work. And do not become discouraged, my children, the work can be its own reward. (How thin and pale this shopworn bromide can become over time. But it is still true.)

And with today’s great self-publishing industry, if you finish what you set out to do, you can put it up on the Internet, publish it on paper, and stick it into the faces of the nay-sayers. “See,” you can say. “I did it.”

And Thriller Guy gives you permission to add, to yourself, “No thanks to you.” 

1 comment:

  1. "No thanks to you" Served with a growl, a smile and plenty of ice.