There is value to reading thrillers and other types of suspense fiction. They provide a mental workout. As a bonus, when tension-filled stories make your heart race faster, and your neck muscles tighten — you are expelling stress. Maybe, just maybe, reading thrillers with a strong message help remind you how important it is that we sometimes put aside our interests for the improvement of others.
Last night, my husband and I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, which reminded me why I like to write psychological thrillers. Rear Window takes place through the eyes of a photographer gazing out of the window of his apartment. Unwittingly he gets involved in the lives of his neighbors. Rear Window is an analysis of social values that stirs its audience to examine our habits, particularly in a world where sensitive information is at our fingertips.
A thriller and its value
Readers want happy endings, but the characters need to earn them. Psychological thrillers aim to make the audience suffer as much as possible, but it also endorses a value that we, as human beings, need to have reasserted. To make this work, I create sympathetic characters with whom readers can identify, and then I put them through hell. Alfred Hitchcock knew all that very well. He knew how to move us out of our comfort zones. In The Birds, we feel the unyielding horror experienced by a young socialite. But it’s also a political allegory about the psychological viciousness of capitalism and the fear of nuclear attack during the Cold War.
In my novels, I tell the story from the point-of-view of psychologically stressed characters. In Blind Pursuit, my novel in progress, I exploit Homa’s uncertainty over her motives and honesty. She’s flawed and damaged, yet it doesn’t stop her from putting aside her interests for the betterment of others.
I write characters who don’t act as people do in real life. It’s my job to make readers believe they could behave like that, given the same outlandish circumstances. So in Blind Pursuit, I had to come with all the reasons why Homa doesn’t call…