Tuesday, August 07, 2018

These days, can a thriller plot actually be too outrageous?

by Rick Blechta

Many years ago now, I remember hearing of a story, perhaps apocryphal, about a group of terrorists who hijack a plan and crash it into the US capitol building in Washington. I remember thinking at the time, How ridiculous. That could not happen!

Well, it did in 2001, and while the home of Congress was spared, two massive buildings in New York City came crashing to earth and a section of the Pentagon was destroyed.

No one in power seriously thought about the effectiveness of weaponizing commercial aircraft. No one seriously thought cars and trucks would be used for the same purpose, either, yet just this thing has been quite effective numerous times to our great sorrow and tragedy.

Now here’s the kicker: the book referred to in the first paragraph was declined by several publishers. All of them said (in effect) that the major driver of the plot was just too outrageous and subsequently unbelivable. I wonder how those publishers felt after 9/11?

I was sitting with some author friends recently and we discussed this topic. For about an hour, we amused ourselves with more and more outlandish plot devices. Some of them were utterly ridiculous, but two or three made us grow silent. Finally I said about an idea that on the surface seemed laughable, “Someone could do this. It could work.”

I won’t tell you what it was, because it was an “out there” idea, and I don’t want to supply anyone with any ideas. The outcome could be just too horrible.

But since the whole world seems to be going crazy, what’s to stop someone from releasing a doomsday device?

Thrillers provide a great, white-knuckle reading experience, but if fiction suddenly became reality, would we be able to deal with it?

I’ve just laid out one sort of plot device. What if my plot dealt with an enemy nation that tried to subvert the government of the United States by means of hacking into the election system and changing results so the candidate of its choosing would be elected president?

Nah. That is just too ridiculous…


Karel Blechta said...

With what’s happening State Side, American politics more and more, everyday, is starting to resemble a fictional Dramady.

Rick Blechta said...

Well, Karel, we only have to look at our own province of Ontario to see something similar, although I don't think anything could top what's going on in Washington at the moment -- and not just in the White House.