Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Jeff Abbott, Guest Blogger

Jeff Abbott is the award-winning author of ten mystery and suspense novels, including the latest thriller, Trust Me.

It's an honor to have him as guest blogger today, with his comments about the ordinary person as hero. Thank you, Jeff, for taking time to write.

Mr. Ordinary
By Jeff Abbott

I am one of those people who marches into life with a limited skill set. I can change a flat tire, and check my oil, but I can’t fix my car’s engine. I can haul my laptop to the Apple store when it freaks but I can’t diagnose it myself. I can cook eggs but not eggs Benedict.

I’m ordinary. Which I why I love writing about ordinary people.

An interviewer made an interesting comment about my novels this past week. She said, “Your books are like a Bourne film or a season of 24, but the difference is you put a regular person in the middle of the action.” And that was a very apt comment. (Interestingly, the same interviewer said she thought this was why my thrillers are popular with women and book clubs.) But there are serious challenges in writing a book with “Mr. Ordinary” as a hero. We know that Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer have the survival skills necessary to navigate a dark world of intrigue and danger. When you have an ordinary person put into extraordinary danger, you make every mountain much taller for them to climb. How do they survive when they don’t have survival skills? I always have to consider these elements in writing an ordinary hero.

Fighting. The heroes in my thrillers—a documentary film maker in Panic, a business consultant in Collision, a psychology grad student in Trust Me—are not trained ninjas. They are often up against experienced killers. So it is a challenge to find ways for them to physically outmaneuver much tougher and more brutal opponents. My heroes have to be smarter, more clever, than an enemy who simply swings fists or opens fire with a gun. I carefully choreograph the action scenes, trying to find new and original, yet plausible, ways for them to triumph. It’s great fun and it forces me, I hope, to be inventive.

Courage. My feeling is that most of us have vast resources of bravery that life never demands that we tap. So much of the emotional texture in my books are my heroes and heroines finding those undiscovered reservoirs of courage. What they confront in my pages is the worst situation in their lives, and they have to stare it in the face. No blinking, no retreat. They are scared to death, but they battle on. I think we have to remember, as a society, that there are worse things than fear.

Adaptability. My heroes don’t have training to help them survive. But what they do have are a set of real-world skills to help them outfight their enemies. In Panic, Evan Casher’s work as a story teller gives him the ability to create a fiction that outwits a fearsome killer. In Collision, Ben Forsberg’s business expertise helps him unravel a murderous conspiracy that threatens our nation’s security—and reveals to him his wife’s killer. In Trust Me, Luke Dantry’s studies in psychology help him deceive and manipulate an entire network of extremists determined to destroy society. They fight differently than typical thriller heroes because they rely on their life experiences for an unexpected edge over their opponents.

I love writing about ordinary heroes, because they are us. They share our fears, our worries, our strengths, our weaknesses. Regular folks can make a difference in the face of real evil. They remind us all, I hope, that our everyday lives are actually very special and extraordinary.

Thank you, Jeff, for making us take another look at ourselves. Jeff Abbott's website is www.jeffabbott.com.

Trust Me by Jeff Abbott. Penguin, ©2009. ISBN 9780525951216 (hardcover), 384p.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great points here, Jeff. It would be challenging to write a thriller with protagonist who is a regular guy...and keep him alive in his struggle with the bad guys. You've thoughtfully outlined how to accomplish that goal while keeping the plot believable. I'm tweeting this one.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Krista said...

Elizabeth, thanks for tweeting. This is very insightful and makes me want to read Jeff's stories. It's such a struggle to figure out how to make a hero larger than life and inspirational when you want him or her to be real and relatable.



Lesa said...


Thanks for tweeting this, and passing on Jeff's comments. I appreciate it!

Lesa said...


Thanks for stopping by after reading Elizabeth's Tweet. I appreciate it!

Msmstry said...

I'd say Jeff has truly mastered the technique of putting ordinary people against extraordinary odds! I've often said he does some terrible things to some really good people.

Keep up the good work, Jeff. And, Lisa, thanks for hosting one of my favorite guys!

Molly Weston

Lesa said...

It was a pleasure, Molly! It's always nice to try to bring an author to the attention of more people.

Heidi V said...

The author seems so down to earth! I like that he uses ordinary people in his novels, I'll have to keep my eye out for his books.

Thanks for bringing this Author to my attention!!!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Heidi! Thanks for taking the time to check out his guest blog.

Jen Forbus said...

I don't know about other readers, but I often find "ordinary" characters to be the ones I'm more able to identify with and connect with. I have a hard time with the CIA opperatives and other spy-type characters. I never really find that link to those and so never fully connect with the novel.

On the other hand, ordinary can be dangerous too if not handled well...as Jeff has eloquently pointed out here. It can end up unbelievable or silly if not handled well. So glad there are talented writers like Jeff who can make the "ordinary" character come realistically to life on the page!

Thanks Jeff and Lesa for this fun blog post!

Lesa said...

Jen, I agree with you. I don't read the books about the CIA types. They don't interest me, with their specialized knowledge. It was fun to host Jeff!

Lisanne624 said...

Yes, but what about Jordan Poteet? Inquiring librarians want to know what he's been up to lately!

Lesa said...

Good question, Lisaanne! I'm afraid I don't know the answer, and Jeff might not be stopping back. I'm sorry!