Let’s talk about action and suspense.

I’m taking it as given that suspense is legitimate fodder for a modern novel.  I don’t endorse gratuitous violence, but fiction could hardly exist without the conflict brought out by a good villain.

Modern suspense novels, many of which I thoroughly enjoy, tend to be plot-driven.  We read them for the action, but once the thrill is over, it’s over.

At the other extreme are character-driven novels.  At their best, they reveal the people in the story—their personalities, struggles, emotions.  You understand them at a deep level.  They become a part of your life.

If you introduce suspense into a character-driven novel, I think you will evoke some strong gut-wrenching emotions.  I’d remember a story like that.  That’s the kind of novel I set out to write.

Can anyone suggest the names of modern suspense novels that are strongly character-driven?  Please feel free to comment.


Filed under Conflict, Suspense, Writing style

11 responses to “SUSPENSE

  1. Ann Brice

    I can’t think of any, but there must be a bunch of them out there.

  2. Lauren R

    I think Christopher Bohjalian writes character-driven novels with suspenseful elements. They’re not merely character studies, but contain a hook, a who-dunnit, that makes them page turners as well.

  3. Janet Case

    I’ve found a good article by Vicki Britton on suite101, that explains exactly what you’re talking about. Oh, and here’s the link:
    It’s a longer article that goes into more detail, with specific authors mentioned.

    It was referenced on a site called The Adams Zone.

    Did you notice the link to The Communal Book Club? That looks interesting, too.

  4. Bill Blaire

    I get what you mean. If some guy I don’t know gets in a car accident, I don’t react real stong. But if my kid gets in a fight at school (and loses) then I’m all over it.

    So I have to care about a guy in the novel to react real strong. If I don’t know much about him then the writer has to ramp up the violence to make it work.

    I like action stories and what you said makes sense to me.

  5. Melissa Hart

    One that springs to mind is the movie, Anatomy of a Murder, which I assume was a book first. But back to the point: I think that a character-based story is more effective when the issue of faith is introduced. When the character is threatened, it’s not just fear involved, but the character’s strength of faith. I think that could get quite deep.

  6. Anna Olson

    go to

    There are murders in quite a few books, if not all. These are really good books. Your wife got me into these books a few years ago. I’ve been a fan ever since!!

  7. anonymous

    Peace Like A River by Leif Enger.
    Not exactly suspense, but it definitely meets the criteria of a character-driven novel with suspense added in. One of the best books I’ve ever read.

    • That’s a terrific book. When editing my manuscript, my Pastor (a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist) told me three times that my work reminded him of that book. Not the genre, but the writing style. He lent me his copy. I have to say, he paid me a very high complement.

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