The Rules of Thrillers

Thriller is currently the most popular literary genre. Two of the style's stars have met for a joint debate - the French writer Bernard Minier and British author Tim Weaver.


As a genre, thriller is often confused with the crime novel, although it abides by different rules. "Thriller makes its characters face extreme situations," Tim Weaver revealed. "Another ingredient is fear, because it is the strongest of emotions when all masks fall off. Once you get into a stress situation you start behaving instinctively. In our everyday lives we wear masks, but as soon as we are in an extreme situation, it shows us for what we really are, and that's precisely the material we work with," Bernard Minier, author of the highly successful trilogy The Circle, Night and The Frozen Dead, added. 


One feature both authors have in common is that their main protagonists are normal people. "This is done on purpose - I wanted to set myself apart from the Scandinavian authors, whose heroes live almost on the edge of society, they take drugs and suffer from psychological disorders. I wanted my hero to be absolutely normal, someone people could easily relate to," said Bernard Minier and Tim Weaver agreed. Another aspect the two authors share is that their stories take place in the present. To what extent, then, do they reflect current affairs? "I come from a country that is in a dire situation - Brexit has been an awful mistake and no one seems able to fix it. For an author it is easy to reflect on these problems. In my novels, the United Kingdom becomes less tolerant and it faces poverty, racism and other things we don't want to see in the society," Tim Weaver, whose translations into Czech include the books Broken Heart, The Dead Tracks or Chasing the Dead, explained. 


Both authors revealed that when they write, they visit crime scenes and talk to investigators and other specialists. "Research is the most interesting part of my work. I enjoy talking to people who have for years worked as investigators, with forensic experts, psychiatrists," Bernard Minier explained. "Often you get so immersed that you end up with loads of interesting material, which the reader would find overwhelming. The story itself should not be too complicated. I must tell myself that I have enough material now for a plot and that I will save the rest for later," Tim Weaver said. Bernard Minier agreed with his colleague - he adopts a similar approach and also occasionally struggles with too much material. "You just can't fit everything in - my books are bulky enough as it is. But I very much enjoy researching the topics. I set my stories in the area of Toulouse and I am in contact with the local police. The stories they tell me are often difficult to believe. Some are so crazy the readers would hardly find them credible," Bernard laughed and offered one such improbable story about a particularly mishandled attempt to dispose of a dead body. Maybe we will find it his next book - adapted, of course, to fit the rules of writing a literary thriller.