Friday, April 17, 2009

Everybody's talking about Susan Boyle, but why are we crying?

People love an underdog. The reaction around the world to British singer Susan Boyle’s recent audition on Britain’s Got Talent makes that clear. Back in 2007, opera singer Paul Potts wowed us with his rags to riches story when he eventually took the top prize on that show after a similarly auspicious beginning.
The reason why we love to cheer the underdog isn't hard to figure out. 99% of us live our lives in unremarkable mediocrity. Sure, with food on the table, a loving family, and a roof over our heads we count ourselves blessed, but that doesn’t mean we’re satisfied. We look at our comfortable, middle of the road existences, and in our hearts, we want more. Many of us try. We start businesses, take online classes, get a second degree, take up oil painting, write a novel. Many of us succeed, albeit most often at a mediocre level. Many fail, then comfort themselves by saying that at least they tried.

And then there are those few like Susan and Paul who challenge the stereotypes and take the risks that break them free of the ordinary at a level that's positively inspiring.
The desire to live life on a larger scale is a big part of why readers are drawn to thrillers. In a thriller, typically, the hero or heroine is, well - heroic. Often attractive, always intelligent and multi-talented - the kind of people we want to be. Not necessarily on a James Bond scale, but certainly a Jack Reacher. Flawed, but still able to take down a bar full of baddies without breaking a sweat.
Paul and Susan's larger than life stories are incredibly appealing. Every time I watch their audition videos, I get misty-eyed. As a thriller author who didn’t cry at her own daughter’s wedding, I wonder why.
Then I start thinking about how I can pack some of that underdog emotional magic into my next novel. Freezing Point has been called "fascinating," "nail-biting," and "terrifying." I'd love to see if I can also make my readers cry.

Karen Dionne is the author of Freezing Point, a thriller Douglas Preston called "a ripper of a story," with other rave endorsements from David Morrell, John Lescroart, and many others. Her novel published October 2008 from Berkley Books.

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