Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction
Pub date: October 19, 2016
Named one of the ten most anticipated essay collections of the fall by Publishers Weekly.
Named one of the 12 best essay collections of the fall by Signature Reads.
Starred review from Library Journal.
Bold new essays on how to craft a thrilling read–in any genre–from the bestselling author of The Dead Lands.
Anyone familiar with the meteoric rise of Benjamin Percy’s career will surely have noticed a certain shift: After writing two short-story collections and a literary novel, he delivered the werewolf thriller Red Moon and the postapocalyptic epic The Dead Lands. Now, in his first book of nonfiction, Percy challenges the notion that literary and genre fiction are somehow mutually exclusive. The title essay is an ode to the kinds of books that make many readers fall in love with fiction: science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, horror, from J.R.R. Tolkien to Anne Rice, Ursula K. Le Guin to Stephen King. Percy’s own academic experience banished many of these writers in the name of what is “literary” and what is “genre.” Then he discovered Michael Chabon, Aimee Bender, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, and others who employ techniques of genre fiction while remaining literary writers. In fifteen essays on the craft of fiction, Percy looks to disparate sources such as Jaws, Blood Meridian, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to discover how contemporary writers engage issues of plot, suspense, momentum, and the speculative, as well as character, setting, and dialogue. An urgent and entertaining missive on craft, Thrill Me brims with Percy’s distinctive blend of anecdotes, advice, and close reading, all in the service of one dictum: Thrill the reader.
Praise for Thrill Me
“For several years, I have been scribbling furiously at Benjamin Percy’s standing-room only lectures on craft, and plagiarizing his advice; I’ve felt jealous of his students, who get to study with him. Now we all have the opportunity to learn from Percy, whose genre-busting, electrifying fiction is opening doors for a new generation of writers. Thrill Me practices what it preaches—it’s a craft book that somehow also manages to be a thrilling read. Drawing on heterogeneous examples from James Baldwin to Kelly Link, Percy shows us how to inject a story with human urgency and how to respect the ‘potent, primitive forces’ lunging inside our language. I love how this book also reads like a sly memoir, with the killer ratio of brilliant mind to generous heart. Warmly personal and deviously scholarly, Thrill Me is terrific.”
—Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
“The magnificent Benjamin Percy has written a warm, personal and deeply considered book on the nature of storytelling, genre and fiction that I recomment unreservedly. It laughs and snarls and sparks fire in the mind. Masterful.”
–Warren Ellis, author of Transmetropoliton, Gun Machine, and Crooked Little Vein
“Who would not want to keep company with the muscular imagination of Benjamin Percy while he ransacks literature, film, and music for all the practices and strategies that compose strong story writing? In this wide-ranging collection of essays, he draws vivid and useful models from artists from Chekhov to Tarantino. The book is rich with examples—and Percy himself makes a stirring and committed coach.”
—Ron Carlson, author of Five Skies and A Kind of Flying
“Deeply personal and intriguing. . . . This is a craft book about how to be a better writer, but it’s also a colorful memoir about a young boy who loved reading. . . . Would-be writers will find Percy’s passionate, pragmatic cheerleading inspiring and energizing.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Percy (The Dead Lands) assembles 15 short essays on various topics related to the art and craft of fiction writing. Many of the selections began as lectures for writing workshops, and aspiring and established authors will get the most out of Percy’s advice. Percy inevitably talks a lot about his own work, but he offers plenty of examples from other writers. Pushing back against the prejudice in literary circles against genre writing, he encourages writers to lean into something more thrilling than simple realism. The book covers topics such as creating urgency, avoiding backstory, and writing violence. On the basis that “work defines us,” Percy advises that a character’s job should shape how that person sees the world. He also frequently draws on filmmaking conventions, explaining how novelists and short story writers can learn lessons about structure and modulation from screenwriters. Percy’s essays skillfully dissect the structure, mechanics, and concrete details of what makes good writing sparkle.”
— Publishers Weekly (which listed Thrill Me as one of the top ten most anticipated books for fall 2016 in the category of Essays/Literary Criticism)