There are various types of writers to whom I’m willing to randomly assign categories to, though I won’t list them all here. There’s the child prodigy, who was writing short stories about cats when she was in 4th grade, and writing fanfic will all the names changed when she was in 11th grade, and probably got suckered into some MFA program after college, but will probably give up at some point if she ever comes to the realization that her dream is not commercially viable. (Future me) There’s the prisoner, who’s doing significant time. Thanks to some well-meaning creative writing instructor (probably a failed writer herself) sent by the state, he starts to write and writes whatever type of novel he’s been reading from the prison library or an account that more than loosely resembles his own life of crime. The list goes on and on.
I believe strongly that there is the occasional person who can write solely thanks to raw talent, so no matter what category you might hail from, you might have written a great novel, even a masterpiece. But that’s another story.
There’s a particular type of writer that we probably see the most of, and rarely ever accept. It’s what I’ll call the “midlife crisis writer.” This person has done the normal thing and has a job that pays money but generally doesn’t make a mark on society in any way. Now they’re forty or fifty, and instead of buying themselves a new car or having plastic surgery, they decided to write a novel. Novels last forever, don’t they? They touch millions of people! (And even appropriately!)
If said writer decides to move into fiction and not autobiography or some thing about how their cat taught them everything they know, this writer will probably move into the thriller, suspense, or mystery genre. This is because it’s what they’re probably reading and because those are genres that look deceptively easy to write. You have your basic plot elements at work: Open with a guy being chased by a killer and then killed. Move into Chapter 1, a domestic scene, until the protagonist (who usually has a similar job to the author’s) gets tied to the killed person in some way and decides to solve the crime or gets thrown into some conspiracy because of a package of information sent to them by the dead person. Throw in some attempts on protagonist’s life, maybe a love triangle, and end somewhere dramatic or symbolic (a church, a graveyard, or the original murder site) with the protagonist facing off against the killer. The protagonist wins but probably gets shot. End with a wrap-up three months later and try to end on a mysterious letter or the announcement that someone’s pregnant. There, done.
Recognize anything? We get tons of these. The only thing that ever changes is the thing driving the plot. For several, unbearable years it was some church secret about Jesus, thanks to The Da Vinci Code, but that died down when the movie came out and everyone realized how much the book sucked when they saw it on screen. Then we saw a lot of Templar stuff because novels/histories about the Templars (based on their mention in The Da Vinci Code) were selling. Now we’re back to the more standard international crime/mafia/drugs/nuclear threat thing, or if the author is the doctor, it involves a disease in some way.
For some reason the current trend is drugs. All drugs. Everyone’s smuggling drugs or killing people over smuggled drugs. Maybe they’ll connect it to terrorism (another big seller) by making it Afghan hash, which supports al-Qaeda. What’s the deal, guys? I haven’t really seen drugs in the news much except crystal meth epidemics, but those don’t involve smuggling. They involve making me sign my name and address when I’m buying one box of Sudafed. What’s up?