Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Thrillers and Romance-Oil and Water or Does Danger Add that Certain Something?

by Jamie Freveletti

The Romantic Times Convention is in Chicago this weekend and The Outfit members will be there enjoying every minute. I've never been to an RT Convention, and having it in Chicago is a wonderful opportunity to attend. Of course, I got to thinking, does a Thriller writer belong there? It seems as though thriller writers don't write romance and often, if they do, it just gets panned, or worse yet, nominated by The Literary Review for the "Bad Sex in Fiction" Award.

I'm not kidding, the award exists. Here are the 2011 nominees.
And can I tell you how I do NOT want to make this list?

Writing romance in a thriller comes with a certain set of logistical problems that are built into the genre. By definition, a thriller sets a protagonist against an antagonist that wants to kill or maim. When you're writing one you'd hate to have your protagonist do something silly rather than try their damndest to get to safety. That's a quick way to lose a reader. So, you try to imagine what a real person would do in the same circumstances. If someone was running toward me with murderous intent romance would be the last thing on my mind. I'd be running--as fast as I could run. Likewise, if cornered I'd be working out in my mind which aikido move I would use to disarm the assailant before--you guessed it-- running away.  I teach aikido and I always emphasize to my students the running away option as optimal in all circumstances. I tell them the best aikido move is the one that allows you to avoid doing any techniques.

But there is something interesting that occurs when one writes a thriller with a female and male character. There's always a question in the reader's mind whether they're going to stop running away or solving the mystery and take some time out to get it on. The best thrillers have sex scenes, both in the movies and in books. In one of my favorite books, The Bourne Identity, Jason Bourne and Marie are in chased all over and hole up in a hotel alone, worried, and wired. They find the perfect way to address their surfeit of adrenaline. 

And in the movie North By Northwest the character played by Cary Grant gets chased, a lot, but somehow ends up romancing the woman who may or may not be a villain.

The romance in North By Northwest is handled well, though, and his concerns about her add to the suspense. I also liked the approach taken by the X-files throughout all the episodes until the very end. They were colleagues first, began to care about each other, and then became lovers.

Because I write a female protagonist who is action oriented, I don't have her worry too much about what the men are thinking or not thinking with regard to romance. The men hit on her a bit, but most need her unique knowledge and sharp brain to help them get out of dangerous circumstances and they focus on getting out of trouble first.

However, I do think that she'll have a free moment soon. Maybe on a train ride like the one above.

And when she does, let's just hope that the resulting scene doesn't get nominated for the bad sex in fiction award by the Literary Review!

I look forward to seeing everyone at the RT Convention!

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