I really liked this one. And no, I’m not just saying that to kiss up to my instructor. I’ve been trying to find something (no matter how small in some) in all the books we’ve read for the Readings in the Genre course that I can apply to my own craft. Before I get into the “what I learned about the writing craft” from Thomas Harris, I wanted to say that for the most part I really liked this story. It felt more like a psychological thriller in that the two families destroyed by the dragon have already taken place by the time to book starts. What follows is a story about Francis and his psychological issues with some great psychological insight into Will Graham. There was something I didn’t like about the ending which leads me into craft.
I guess I was reading this story as a mystery and not just a story about a killer. I felt like I “saw it coming” when Francis fakes his death to come after Graham. Not really because of any clues in the story so much as I saw on my nook that I had too many pages left after Dolarhyde’s house explodes for the story to really be over. So, to me, it felt like Harris stopped telling us a story and just went for a shock factor finish. It felt cheap to me and left me feeling cheated.
I’ve said in past posts on other books as well as in discussion in class that I stress a lot with motivation for my killers. This just proves to me the recent revelation I made for myself as a writer that you can’t aim to please everyone when trying to create a plausible backstory and motivation for a killer. Personally, while extremely traumatic for Francis, I didn’t feel like there was enough motivation for becoming the Dragon or in stalking his victims. So, again, I can basically give my villains any backstory I want that will result in their motivation. All the really matters is staying consistent with that motivation for the character throughout the work.