Is Pride and Prejudice a thriller?
I’ll get back to that, but first…
I tried to write a thriller/mystery once. And I did, too, like 14,000 words of one. I just checked. There’s a gossipy blogger. A package with explosives. A beautiful local politician that’s found dead.
I started it like four years ago, then picked it up again two years ago and never finished. I don’t know if I can. I think there’s a story there, but I always think of suspense novels and mystery novels as…
But tons of people read them. Is there a way to make an ordinary literary fiction novel “suspenseful” without all that stuff?
Here’s what Charles Finch in the New York Times said about the book in a recent piece about thrillers:
The art, meanwhile, the thing that makes “Pride and Prejudice” so superbly suspenseful, more suspenseful than the slickest spy novel, is to write stories in which characters must make decisions. “Breaking Bad” kept a few secrets from its audience, but for the most part it was fantastically adept at forcing Walter and Jesse into choice, into action. The same is true of “Freedom,” or “My Brilliant Friend,” or “Anna Karenina,” all novels that are hard to stop reading even when it seems as if it should be easy.
That has stayed with me for days. I love that–the idea of small, individual decisions. That’s why Pride and Prejudice is a thriller and keeps us going.
The decision-making idea seems so much simpler and freeing. I don’t necessarily have to have the novel all planned out. There can be some reaction to the flow, just as he mentioned in Breaking Bad. I just have to bring each character to a meaningful decision point.
That’s seems easier (and more fun!) than just charting conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution. It seems more spontaneous, with a chance to really give the characters some breathing room.
Force characters to make a meaningful decision rather than into a rigid plot framework.
I’ll give it a try.