December 5 – 11: “Are our stories about saving the world?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5Are our stories about “saving the world” or can we work at a microcosm level with everyday routines and human exchanges? This week ITW Members Keith Dixon, Ginny Fite, Maynard Sims and Ray Dyson discuss. You won’t want to miss it!


naked-nymph-cover-1Ray Dyson first took up eating in Evansville, IN, just long enough ago that, not only is the house he was born in no longer there, neither is the street. He attended The Ohio State University School of Journalism and spent several years as a newspaperman, covering crime and sports. He is a former sports editor and sports columnist, and now lives in Mansfield, OH, with his wife, Pamela, where he works as a freelance journalist. He has a particular interest in American history (especially the Civil War), the American West, and the American cinema. Dyson is the author of three other books: a baseball story, Smokey Joe; a Western novel, Bannon: The Scavenger Breed, and his first Neil Brand crime story, set in Hollywood in 1931, The Ice Cream Blonde (Black Opal Books 2016).


no-good-deed-left-undone-front-coverGinny Fite is an award-winning journalist who has covered crime, politics, and all things human. She’s been a spokesperson for a governor, a Congresswoman, and a robotics R&D company. In addition to degrees from Rutgers and Johns Hopkins Universities, she studied at the School for Women Healers and the Maryland Poetry Therapy Institute, all of which finds its way into her dark mystery thrillers, Cromwell’s Folly and No Good Deed Left Undone, featuring Detective Sam Lagarde.


storeyTwo years ago Keith Dixon moved to France. This made researching his thrillers set in the UK more challenging. However, having been an advertising copywriter, an English professor and an organizational psychologist, he realises that challenges create character, so that’s the theory he relies on when writing his novels. And something must be working – his fourth Sam Dyke Investigation, The Bleak, won the Chanticleer CLUE Award for best Private Eye/Noir novel of 2014. His latest book, Storey, is the first in a new series.


Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00005] Len Maynard & Mick Sims are the authors of twenty novels with many more scheduled, in the thriller genres of crime, supernatural and romance. These include the Jack Callum, Department 18 and Bahamas series. Ten story collections, numerous novellas, screenplays and edited works.



  1. I think to have resonance with readers, our stories must have both a ‘high stakes’ element AND enable readers to connect with our characters at the deepest human level. If there’s nothing worth fighting for – or saving – then readers may well think, ‘So what’s the point? Why should I care?’ By the same token, our characters must not only be interesting enough to hold readers’ attention, they must also have qualities that readers share – whether it’s a sense of humour, a knowledge of their own frailties, or just how hard it is to pay monthly bills.

    In my own books I’m constantly trying to find the ‘human moment’, what it would be like to be a character in the given situation, however extreme. And that moment may be one character getting a sudden insight into another because of a movement in their eyes; or it may be hearing something that reminds them of a childhood memory; or in the midst of a crucial fight, a character might make a joke because he is suddenly aware of the ludicrous aspect of what he’s doing. These ‘human exchanges’ both deepen the character and make their goals and ambitions more important to the reader; as a result they’re fundamental to helping the reader invest in the larger storyline, which may well involve saving the world.

  2. Are our stories about “save the world” or can we work at a microcosm level with everyday routines and human exchanges?

    I guess this is a ‘big’ story versus ‘small’ story question? Much depends on the genre, but even more depends on the story that has to be told. There are books we have written where the theme might be termed grand but how to tell the story behind it? That’s where the small comes in.

    Small like character traits, place details, life events that matter only to the characters in the story. Maybe you can tell a big story through a series of small events or things that seem to matter only to your characters. Maybe a theme can be projected by ordinary life?

  3. The only world most of the people in my stories are interested in saving is their own little piece of whatever they have. It might not be an easy world and it might not be a safe world and it is certainly not a fair world. They fight for that little piece of what is theirs — sometimes without hope, often without choice — because it is the only thing they have to cling to. It is their only chance for survival. Most likely, the fight is for them alone, but sometimes there are others for whom the fight is a last shot at hope or maybe redemption.

    If one lonely person can save himself, perhaps that salvation rubs off on someone caught up in that same darkness. If one can save two, perhaps two can save four — and the light spreads until it brightens a bigger world.

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