Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gender genres? Thrillers for women!

A car chase sequence of The Chain Reaction.                                           Image via WikipediaSay the word thriller, and immediately people think of car chases, conspiracies, fancy hardware such as guns, and lots of money. High stakes, high jinx, high everything. Tension, excitement and thrills, however, are not limited to ransoms, heists and revenge. Thrillers attract an audience (largely, but not exclusively, male) that demands cliff-hangers, fringe theories and paranoia.

The thriller genre has spawned some very familiar household names in fiction: Michael Crichton, John Grisham, Clive Cussler and Scott Turow need no introduction. They spin out worthy volumes that merit the popularity they glean for their authors and the genre in general. The audience they write for is mainly male, adventure-loving and hooked on malevolence and action.

What about the girls, and those who are a bit less blood-thirsty and wild thrill-seeking? There must be a sub-genre to suit them. An intellectual thriller, more tuned to the thoughtful and considered reader: the reader who demands more in the way of character-depth, well-researched background and locations, and a premise that requires concentration, analytical skills, critical thinking, and focus from the reader. And perhaps a bit of background knowledge, culture even.

The kind of thriller a female reader might enjoy would involve deeper emotional engagement on the part of the protagonist, a premise that needs more than one sentence to describe it, and a background that might be historic, philosophical or psychological in nature. How about a couple of female characters?

Sub-genres to the thriller have recently sprung up that cater to an audience with broader tastes. There are religious thrillers, that deal with alternative biblical interpretations. There are psychological thrillers, that play with the labyrinthine twists and turns of the mind. There are also political thrillers that delve into the nefarious schemes and plots that shake governments to their foundations.

From deviantart
Then there are romantic thrillers. Ah! These are novels in which the characters are more than simply sketched or lightly drawn: they become real to the reader, because who they are determines how the story goes, how hard the action is driven and in which direction the ending leads. Romantic thrillers are novels that entertain not only with their deftly twisted plots and stories, their action and their intrepid protagonists: they also engage the emotion, and demand the reader to pay attention to more than what is just seen and physically endured. They demand examination of the emotion, engagement with feelings and sensitivities.

These are thrillers that female readers might enjoy. Not all women relish comfortable romances where the ending - although not always predictable - can be guaranteed to tie everything up favourably for the protagonist, usually female. Not all female readers require stories that are only engagements of the heart. Romantic thrillers provide enough excitement, thrills and action to deliver an exhilarating read without ignoring the attraction between men and women, the possibilities and risks of a relationship that accompanies a mystery, and how sexual tension can liven up and complicate a plot.

Look out for Tara Moss, Roxanne St Clair, Linda Howard, or Jamie Freveletti if you seek thrillers with a bit of heart.

Now I might have raised questions here about readers, genders, genres and whether authors write for a specific audience of males or females! If you have an opinion about any of these questions, by all means leave a comment.

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