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Are You Pushing Potential Readers Away?

As we discussed on Tuesday, thriller fiction is meant to be thrilling. That’s the common, obvious and essential ingredient for a novel to be classified this way.

But there are plenty of ways an author can be thrilling, which means there are plenty of subgenres to thriller fiction. These include:

  • Medical thrillers

  • Legal thrillers

  • Political thrillers

  • Supernatural thrillers

  • Horror thrillers

  • Disaster thrillers.

While each of those listed – and unlisted – subgenres has its definite following, legal and political thrillers are two of the most widely known kinds of thriller fiction. So this Writing Challenge of the Week is going to be most specifically focused on them.

If you’re going to tackle a controversial topic in your thriller, don’t get preachy.

While there are the James Patterson types who don’t seem to champion any particular cause, many thriller fiction writers do. Maybe they’re writing political thrillers or environmental thrillers or legal thrillers, any of which lend way too easily to pushing an agenda.

If you have an agenda you want to promote, that’s fine. Just don’t let your story suffer in the process. Your narrative should always come first; it should never be forced along by your message, whatever it is.

This is a challenge – and a warning – I’ll be issuing again when we get to Christian fiction. But it applies just as heavily here. If you’re more focused on your agenda than your story, then you should write non-fiction, not thriller fiction or any other kind of made-up story.

Here’s why…

Most readers pick up books to be distracted from their real-life blahs. Modern-day Western-world life is very often filled with a whole lot of boredom (which, incidentally, we should be intensely thankful for) and same-old scenarios, one of those being constant public preaching from every platform possible.

News headline are typically biased for or against a certain political party. Watch a movie or check out a new TV show, and you’re bound to get a political “education.” Even businesses get in on the blatant act with their commercials, content and creations.

With that kind of consistent bombardment, people are bound to either get indoctrinated or irritated. And do you really want your readers to be either?

Hopefully the answer is no despite how that does automatically mean you’ll have to turn up your creativity. There's no ridiculous pandering or promoting allowed.

If you have an environmental agenda, as I read in one thriller fiction a few years back, don’t have your business-owner protagonist taking constant construction advice from his eight-year-old, no matter how smart and studious she is about the environmental education she’s receiving.

It’s really annoying. And preachy. And it will push readers away since it pulls them out of the story and right back into boring, same-old, agenda-driven reality.

If you really want to promote certain environmental practices, don’t come right out and state your opinion that traditional capitalist and political policies are destroying the Earth. Let the story more naturally and subtly indicate those beliefs.

I don’t share that particular passion, yet even I can come up with a few ways to promote it in a thriller fiction novel. Here are just two of them:

  • Have the protagonist running from the bad guys, with the most convenient hiding place being a trash site. She can be overwhelmed by the scent of it: one more reason to control her breathing after her mad dash for some kind of safety.

  • Let the protagonist pick up the morning paper, only to see that another alligator had to be removed from the neighborhood last night – the third one since the supposedly environmentally-focused politicians allowed local swampland to be turned into a new business center.

Whatever you do though, don’t dwell on those details. Mention them for as long as they’re relevant and not a second more, letting the story rule the writing and reading roost.

Otherwise, you’re going to end up preaching to the choir, a limited readership you’ll fully deserve.


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