Monday, November 24, 2014

The Opening Of Your Next Thriller

Writers in the US are preparing for a long weekend holiday of excessive eating, so they aren't likely to be thinking too deeply about the subject of their next novel. Sit down at the table and be thankful that the North Koreans have provided a plot for you.

North Korea is a fascinating place because it is such a secretive nation. The media is so thoroughly controlled that you can't find out what is happening, and you can't believe what they tell you because it's all a pack of lies anyway.
This is a picture of Jeanne Gang, a brilliant architect with a particular set of skills.

For a writer, there is an added benefit in that you can make up whatever you like if you use North Korea as a setting because your readers don't have much disbelief to suspend. Anything is possible in a country that exists in total isolation from the rest of the world.

When news is released by North Korea, it carries greater weight due to its rarity, and when that news includes a freshly minted "Dear Leader" having his uncle executed, the world takes notice. Not only the uncle, but all those associated with the uncle were killed off as Kim Jong Whichever purged those who most endangered his complete control. Including an ex-girlfriend, apparently, but that's a different story.

What of the families of those purged? It's been thought that people who ran afoul of the regime were put into labor camps along with their families, so it would make sense that a purged official would bring his nearest and dearest along for the ride to the afterlife.

It turns out that one of the uncle's colleagues had a son who was studying architecture in Paris at the time of the Great Purge. The young man was part of a group of select students whose parents were high enough up in the government to be trusted to go away and then come back, bringing much needed knowledge to North Korea. The country might be isolated, but it needs modern architectural techniques to build cheap housing that won't collapse. That sort of unpleasantness can stir up the masses and a stirred-up mass is a potentially rebellious mass. Who wants the inconvenience of putting down a rebellion?

French authorities have said that the North Korean student disappeared one day recently, not showing up for class when he was always a dedicated student. The next thing anyone knew, the unnamed individual was being put on board a flight to China. The story is unclear, but he either evaded his captors or the French border authorities took him into protective custody after he let them know that he was not getting on the flight of his own free will.

The other students he came with have also disappeared, but it is thought that they have gone into hiding, knowing that they are likely to find themselves also being put on board a flight to China. From there, it's off to North Korea and the same fate that their parent met. Who wouldn't rather stay in France given that outcome upon returning home?

So there is your opening. A North Korean student is kidnapped off the streets of a Paris suburb, and your protagonist must find him because he has critical knowledge of his home country's nuclear programme. The real kidnap victim wasn't part of the science community but having secret knowledge of a country's architecture doesn't make for much of a thriller. You'll have to alter reality to make for a compelling read. As for the ending, it is essentially written for you, complete with bungling kidnappers who can't get beyond the security gate at Charles de Gaulle airport.

What happens in between is up to the writer. Just remember, Taken is already taken. You'll have to adjust accordingly. The Liam Neeson role could be written for a woman, right? That's one way to tell the same story in a different way.

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