Guest Post by John W. Howell: Thriller Writing vs. Fantasy Writing

Photo by Tim Burdick

I am thrilled to be here on Charles Yallowitz’s blog today. Charles is one of those nice people who continually supports his fellow authors. He offered to let me post in support of the introduction of my next book titled His Revenge. When we were discussing the subject of the post I suggested having a Thriller genre author like me (well me) draw some parallels to the Fantasy genre. He thought that might be a good idea and gave me the go-ahead to write the piece.

I have to explain that Charles’ series Legends of Windemere was my first serious exposure to the Fantasy genre. I have not read all of the books but have finished through book four (out of eight) and working on book five. I keep kidding Charles that he writes his books faster than I can keep up reading. The accusation is preposterous of course since it is a matter of time and TBR list that grows by the day. All that aside here are my top five observations on the similarities between the Fantasy and Thriller genre.

5.  The Fantasy and Thriller genres have unusual characters. It is true the characters in Fantasy are created out of sets of non-human and human forms and any combination of the two. The fact remains that beneath the exterior of both Thriller and Fantasy characters there are the drivers of greed, jealousy, hate, and love that define the character’s personality and motivations. The best characters in both genres are those with an unusual mix of traits.

4.  The Fantasy and Thriller genres have locations to which the reader can relate and is important to the story. If the story takes place in familiar locales, the author can mention a well-known place and the reader can imagine the location. If the location is not well known or a total fabrication the Fantasy and Thriller author must paint the picture of the situation in words. Once the description is complete, the reader can relate.

3.  The Fantasy and Thriller genres have a story set up that is along the three act play. Act one sets the location, introduces the characters, and begins to tell the story with a first turning point at the end of the act. Act two sees the activity of the protagonist trying to resolve the turning point introduced in act one. The hero seems to be at odds due to the need to learn techniques to deal with antagonistic situations and characters.(called the character arc) The act closes with a second turning point that is usually a low point. Act three begins at the low point and builds to a point of climax and then a resolution of all the issues and subplots.

2.  The Fantasy and Thriller genres have reader expectations and conventions that need to be addressed by the author.In the Thriller genre, all the situations and protagonist reactions must be based in reality. An author cannot invent an unrealistic solution to a problem (or even an unrealistic problem) and not expect negative reader reaction. In the Fantasy genre although situations can be unearthly protagonist reaction and troubleshooting must be done according to the conventions proscribed for the character or situation. Unsupported shortcut and surprise endings of the story lead to a reaction as well.

1. The Fantasy and Thriller genres have plot twists and turns that make the stories more interesting. Just when the protagonist thinks, things are under control or can’t get any worse up pops a twist to further challenge the situation. These twists are a necessary part of maintaining reader interest and a certain level of tension. There is usually not a secret left for the end like in mysteries, and the reader pretty much knows what is going on at all times. It is more that certain circumstances take a turn that neither the protagonist nor the reader could have predicted.

His Revenge front final
Here is a blurb for His Revenge:

America loves John Cannon, its newest hero, and the President wants to present him with the highest civilian medal for bravery for saving the Annapolis midshipman from a terrorist plot to destroy them. While in Washington for the award ceremony, John unwillingly becomes an accomplice in another plan by the same group to attack the credibility of the US President and the stability of the worldwide oil market. There is no way out as John either becomes a traitor to America or causes thousands of innocent people to die if he refuses.

The second John J Cannon Thriller moves from a barrier Island off the coast of Texas to Washington DC, then to Northern California, and finally to Ecuador. John is on the receiving end of an offer he cannot, refuse. His avowed enemy Matt Jacobs now wants John to help him shake the reputation of the US in the world political arena. If John refuses, Matt plans to murder innocent Americans including John’s latest relationship. John’s only way out is to pretend to go along with the plan and hope for a miracle.
His Revenge is available on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle.

In Canada in Paper and Kindle editions

In the UK in Paper and Kindle editions

New to the adventures of John J Cannon? Then dive into the thrilling beginning!

My GRL_johnwhowell

The first John Cannon story My GRL where John takes a leave of absence from his law firm and buys a boat he names My GRL. He is unaware his boat has been targeted for use by a terrorist group to destroy the class of Annapolis Midshipmen on their summer cruise. John’s first inkling of a problem is when he wakes up in the hospital after he is found unconscious next to the dead woman who sold him the boat in the first place. John is the only one standing between the terrorists and the success of their mission. Available on Amazon and where Ebooks are sold.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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12 Responses to Guest Post by John W. Howell: Thriller Writing vs. Fantasy Writing

  1. Thank you again for the pulpit Charles.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Big Thanks to Charles Yallowitz for Helping launch His Revenge | Fiction Favorites

  3. L. Marie says:

    A great analysis, John! I’ve never seen a side-by-side comparison of the two genres. This is really helpful. The urban paranormal romance genre tends to blend the two.
    Congrats on your newest release.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, L. Marie. I have often wondered why reading Fantasy was not so much different from the Thriller genre which I was used to reading and writing. I am a newbie so I guess after thinking about it seemed natural.


  4. Thanks for the fascinating comparison of the two genres. Turns out there are more similarities than meets the eye 🙂


  5. Jan Hawke says:

    Thrillers will always be the tops, whether they’re irredeemably earthbound, or off in the world(s) of imagination so long as ‘people’ work! 😉
    Great article John and thanks for having us all over Charles 😀


  6. Of course Nicholas this is one person’s opinion and there may be a minion of Fantasy readers out there that would want me skewered by a unicorn. (or something) Thanks, for the comment.


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