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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Heroes: To FBI or Not to FBI

Go to any bookstore. Any one. Your choice. Pull any 25 suspense/mystery titles down off the shelf and find out what the hero does for a living. How many do you think will NOT fall into the category of: Cop, FBI, Detective, Seal, Special Forces, Mercenary, or Elite something-or-other? That’s right. Not many. One or two… maybe.

And editors are tired of seeing the same-old thing coming across their desks.

When editors ask to see something different…they really do mean DIFFERENT. They want to see everyday people become heroes, not heroes doing another heroic thing. They want to see the guy next door get in over his head and make it out by the skin of his teeth.

I had the opportunity to chit-chat with several editors in Dallas at the ACFW conference. They were talking about being snowed under with the same old stuff. If it’s a legal thriller, ya gotta have a lawyer. If it’s a medical thriller, there’s going to be a doctor. But if it’s a suspense novel, why does it HAVE to be a cop, a detective, or some other law enforcement/military trained hero taking the lead?

I almost asked them how they would take to having the ex-mercenary hero break his leg in the first chapter and his geek brother have to take over… but I restrained myself. The editors were serious. They’re looking for something different. They want to see something OTHER THAN a cop, a detective, a soldier, a SEAL, a mercenary go up against impossible odds and walk away a better person for it. They want to see a regular guy (or gal) quake in his tasseled loafers at the prospect of defeating the force that is coming against him. Then they want to see him win in spite of himself.

Now, I say all this and I’m in the middle of writing a three-book series for Waterbrook about…. drumroll please…bounty hunters. But at least it’s a little bit different. And trust me…these bounty hunters are no “Dog the Bounty Hunter” types.

But next time you sit down and put together a suspense novel proposal with the beautiful girl, the evil villain, and the cop, scratch through the cop and write in “Phil Smith, car mechanic by day, bowling fanatic by night”… or “Tommy Harris, Starbucks Manager.” You might just get a request for the entire manuscript…

Wanda Dyson (www.wandadyson.com)


Blogger Lynette Sowell said...

When I'm in the store looking at back covers, I notice my eyes start to glaze over at the mention of FBI/former FBI, cop/former cop heroes and heroines. When the stories start sounding too similar to me, I wonder if that happens to someone else. That's why my romantic suspense series won't have any of those types of heroes/heroines . I'm glad I went with my gut on these proposals. :) I'll have to see what happens!

8:42 AM  
Anonymous Jane said...

That are some great points. And truth be told I totally agree with those editors. Would love to read something different for a change...

1:16 PM  
Anonymous david fry said...


What a refreshing perspective! As a nascent writer in the suspense genre, I am purposely trying to steer clear of the 3-letter acronymitis syndrome.

I have often wondered that since I don't deploy a detective or other law enforcement, legal, or military authority in my stories ... would they stand a chance on the racks? Simply because that is what I see so much of.

I choose not to be a twice-baked potato. They taste good but there's more to life than potatoes.

Your post is a breath of fresh air for those of us pushing our next-door hero out into the street. Anything can happen when you play in traffic. :-)

I just wanted to say that I resonate soundly with your post. Thank you for raising the inquiry. It gives me great hope that my wips might just stand out in stark contrast on the current suspense bandwagon!

Thank you kindly for the vicarious encouragement.

Blessings by the way on your bounty hunter series!

Weaving in and out of the craft traffic,

-david fry

12:22 AM  

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