WHAT IS ADVENTURE/THRILLER?
Since I’m on a defining genre kick, I’ll dive right into my next, and more prolific genre, what I used to call action/adventure. Back in the day, in the mid-nineties, I loved Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt adventures. What was to become my Gold series was inspired by them. Lusitania Gold became my first action/adventure novel, as it was defined by all the agents and publishers of the time.
An action/adventure story is where a character goes on an adventure and is plunged into danger involving various scrapes with bad guys. The adventure comes from the story going to various worldwide locales, usually, while the plots can be as simple as a treasure hunt or a mystery.
I tackled the genre with relish. As a matter of fact, that’s where the original Gold title came from. However, I decided early on to make that almost a side issue to a much bigger quest. Because of changing times, it was a good thing because as the new millennium came along, action/adventure fell out of fashion in the publishing world.
With the MTV thirty-second attention span and the higher stakes in action movies, publishers considered the action/adventure genre to be too slow, to not have enough of a bang for readers. To put it bluntly, they’re too slow and boring. The stakes are not high enough. I need to digress a moment to our last article on horror. One thing I forgot to mention about marketing horror. It’s politically incorrect to market a story as horror to many publishers or agents. The politically correct term now is supernatural thriller. Horror doesn’t sell like it used to and is considered a dirty word among many in the publishing world so if you do write it, be careful who you submit to!
Action/adventure is in a similar case. Therefore, your standard action/adventure cannot just be about a search for gold or a simple mystery anymore. The stakes have to be higher. You have to have a world crisis of some kind thrown in. Sure, you can still have the treasure hunt, but it now has to ride on the coattails of a bigger crisis to fit into what is now the thriller category.
My buddy James Rollins, who writes very successful best-selling thrillers once told me there’s nothing wrong with mixing things up. He’ll mix genres to make things interesting and it’s obvious in his thrillers. He especially mixes science fiction with his thrillers. Whatever works.
What happened to all of my Gold series is that what started as plain old action/adventure stories evolved into adventure thrillers as the series progressed. Now I can market them as either adventure thrillers or just plain thrillers and get away with it. It worked for my publisher.
What you have to do is look at what you’re writing and ask yourself these questions. Maybe you already know but if you don’t, step back and rethink what you’re doing. Have you done it right? Is your genre vague? Are you writing something you can’t place? If you can’t even say, how are you going to convince an agent or publisher?
Food for thought.