On writing FRENZY
“Frenzy” Now there’s a title that promises a lot. I’d like to think it delivers.
Five young women are murdered in a hotel suite. This might at first seem like overkill (sorry), if it were not for Richard Speck, who was found guilty of killing eight student nurses in a rented townhouse in Chicago.
The disturbing knowledge that there must be more Specks walking around free to kill provides what is most needed to make a fictional serial killer thriller come alive – plausibility. Fiction rooted in fact. People can tell you, and you can tell yourself, that it’s absurd to become afraid of something in a book, even if you’re reading that book while all alone in the soft light of a dim library, on a rainy night, in a house full of ineffable sounds.
But there is more here. Speck has widened plausibility. How can one reject as implausible something that happened. Speck’s grotesque crime has increased what is plausible in this kind of thriller. Five victims slain in the same time frame in the same room. Echoes of Speck. And somewhere in the reader’s mind is a train of logic something like, “God! This is so horrible that it defies belief. Yet didn’t it happen?” Yes, there are echoes of Speck bouncing off actual crimes that occurred not all that long ago.
So, acceptance can follow disbelief, all in a matter of minutes, and if the rest of the novel works, plausibility will have been established by fact.
A massacre for openers can provoke something else in a thriller—curiosity. Why would someone murder five young women in the same place, in the same way, at the same time?
The idea in FRENZY, as in most thrillers, is to pose intriguing questions, and then answer them.
But not too soon.