Everyone loves a story. They were once told in pictures on cave walls, and are now written in binary code on silicon chips.. By getting us out of ourselves they allow us to see ourselves. Maybe the most basic form of story is the thriller. And here are 5 elements that make a great one.
1) A hero and/or heroine to whom we can relate. Their problems are our problems; their victories are our thrills. Heroes need not be altogether perfect individuals. Indeed, it's far better if they're flawed. Because we are, and the goal is empathy. The thriller should transport us, which it can't do unless it puts us in the hero's skin.
2) Gut-wrenching peril. Lives in danger are standard, but severe threats to one's well-being can also be compelling if they move us viscerally. Our recoil should be with horror.
3) A primal plot, such as, the triumph of good over evil. For a great thriller, the evil should be fresh, implacable and extreme (arising out of some black hole of childhood abuse or genetic deformity), but, ideally, showing a charming face.
4) Heightening and intensification of the first three elements. Great thrillers progressively ratchet the evil, the peril, and at least in the final (and hopefully surprising but inevitable) resolution, the heroism of the main protagonist.
5) All the foregoing must feel real. The key governing element of that achievement is the dialogue. If the dialogue sounds credible, then the characters and plot will be rooted in reality, and the work will have a strong chance of succeeding. Of course, the opposite of that proposition is not only self-evident but a lot easier to accomplish.
Was my book, Wrong Man Running, written with these elements in mind? Frankly, it's doubtful I had anything in mind but the story. On the other hand, the story was written because it had all of these elements.
New York native Alan Hruska graduated from Yale University and Yale Law School and worked as a trial lawyer until 2002. In 1986 he published his first novel, Borrowed Time, and cofounded Soho Press, where he serves as chairman of the board. He has written and directed movies (Nola, The Warrior Class, and Reunion) and plays (his own New House Under Construction and Ring Twice for Miranda, and Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot).>Wrong Man Running is his second novel.