Sunday, August 19, 2012

Writing the Science-based Thriller

Nearly all of us work in some business and the better part of our waking hours is often spent engaged in that work, so placing my novels in an industry has always felt to me to be a natural extension of life.  The industry in STAR TIME (coming out this Wednesday) is network television.  In my legal thriller A QUESTION OF PROOF, the victim is a newspaper publisher.  BIRTHRIGHT (being published soon) is the saga of an investment banking family.  The amount of research that I had to master to be able to write knowledgeably about those industries was often daunting.  If one is not a scientist and, more specifically, a scientist in the specific discipline in which a novel is to be set, the research can be even more daunting.  Exposure to the science can be fascinating to readers, but that will prove inconsequential to creating a compelling novel if the characters and their concerns do not fascinate as well. 

Years ago, I conceived of a science-based thriller.  The science was cutting edge and, I thought, would be a revelation to the general public: immortality that might just be scientifically possible.  First I had to find the few texts that mentioned the new discovery.  Then I had to look up nearly every word in the texts, but I kept doggedly at it because the stakes were high: First, I wanted to write a compelling science-based thriller and, second, I wanted to live forever.  My agent eventually dissuaded me from pursuing the book any further because the characters and their concerns did not seem anywhere near so gripping to him as the science.  But now that I think about it – and he is no longer among those of us who can still benefit from that area's advances – I wonder if perhaps he had a prejudice against science-based thrillers.  The science is still cutting edge and still not that widely known.  Maybe if I went back and plumbed those characters and concerns anew, maybe, just maybe . . . 

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