Why Did We Hold our Breath?

635505980149890009-AP-SKYSCRAPER-LIVE.1It’s been a week or so, but I’m still thinking about Nik Wallenda’s stunning feat. Talk about a thriller where your heart leaps into your throat, your blood pressure shoots through the roof, and you can’t sit still for more than a second! How can anyone walk a tightrope across the Chicago River without a net? More significant, how can anyone walk blindfolded 500 feet in the air without a net? Are you kidding?

I know he did it to inspire us. To show us that if he could succeed at a death-defying challenge, we could achieve our (probably more modest) goals. But I’m not sure I buy it. Who among us would try anything as risky as he did? I prefer to think of it as a perfect example of the gut-level emotion we get from a thrill. Especially one where the stakes couldn’t be higher. I mean, what can be more suspenseful than watching a guy risk his life way above the ground in front of millions of TV viewers? Will he? Wont he? How can you watch? How can you not?

In other words, it’s exactly what we thriller authors try to do in our fiction. Raise the stakes. Create obstacles. Stretch time. (The telecast was on over an hour before Wallenda made his appearance.) Keep the audience/reader in suspense. Maybe Wallenda should be writing thrillers instead of living them…

If, for some reason, you missed it, you can get a bit of the experience here.