Categories of Suspense: Action-Adventure

Due to a goof on my part, my blog posts haven’t been posting. Here’s last Thursday’s post:

I’m pulling all the goodness from T. Macdonald Skillman’s book, WRITING THE THRILLER, before I have to return it to the library. In the next several posts I’ll be discussing the eight categories of suspense, as identified by Skillman.

Today’s category is Action-Adventure. Hollywood loves these babies and spits them out at regular intervals: Armageddon, Deep Impact, Speed, Dante’s Peak, Twister. You’ll note the absence of aliens and space ships. Those are science fiction. You’ll also note that some of these films have an element of mystery to them. But for the most part, these movies inflict a powerful emotional response on the viewer and thus fall into the suspense genre.

Action-adventure suspense novels are full of renegade cops, or military men, or cultic kidnappers, or heroic citizens desperately trying to carve out a satisfactory existence after a natural disaster. Think Indiana Jones. Jason Bourne. Rambo.

In this category, romantic entanglements are brief or non-existent. The hero just doesn’t have time to court a beautiful woman when the fate of the world hangs in the balance. In the movie Speed, the hero courts the damsel WHILE he’s trying to save the city. For the most part, though, readers know the female lead probably won’t get very far in her quest for a man who pays adequate attention to her.

Many action-adventure heroes are recurring series characters. Think James Bond or Dirk Pitt. These guys are larger-than-life protagonists who survive the most dastardly villains and elaborate murder plots. Skillman says, “It’s their exploits and the danger to other characters that have kept fans intrigued through multiple books.” Other books in this category include Mark Beret’s EAGLE STATION and W.E.B. Griffin’s Brotherhood of War series.

That’s the quick definition of Action-Adventure suspense. 


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