(Image Courtesy: Readomania)
Hello friends, I’ve been missing from here for a few months now. I have been busy with my own reading and writing. As a lot of you might know, I’m completing my MFA degree on creative writing and that is keeping me really occupied. 🙂
Anyway, today I have a special announcement to make. Popular publishing house, Readomania, is hosting a Crime Writing Festival which will go on for the month of May.
Here’s what you can expect: “Throughout the month, every Tuesday and Thursday, Readomania’s thriller authors will feature in live Twitter discussions and answer your questions on everything ‘thrilling’.
The Readomania Crime Writing Festival will also hold a contest on the best ‘original short crime fiction’, the winner of which will receive an ebook publishing deal with our digital imprint, ReadoShots. There will also be book giveaways to the best question asked twice every week.
So, be on Twitter this whole month of May and tune in to the Readomania Crime Writing Festival 2019. Besides, it would be ‘criminal’ to miss it.
Featured authors: Anurag Anand, Archana Sarat, Ayan Pal, Deepti Menon, Maitrayee Sanyal De, Manjiri Prabhu, Tanushree Podder, Sourabh Mukherjee, Sutapa Basu.”
You can learn more about the festival here: Readomania Crime Writing Festival 2019
I am one of the blogging partners for this festival.
Psychological thrillers are on an all-time boom. Everybody is reading them. Look at the success of The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl and Before I Go To Sleep. But first, let’s talk of what is a psychological thriller? Well, these are thrillers that revolve around the abnormal psychological states of its characters. They usually feature a reduced sense of reality, moral ambiguity and tortured, complex relationships between obsessive and pathological characters.
In psychological thrillers, characters often battle their own minds: they try to determine what is real, their own identity, and what is the purpose of life. Amnesia or being in a trance-like state is a common plot device used to explore these questions. Death is almost always the motif of psychological thrillers. Protagonists may be threatened with death, be forced to deal with the deaths of others, or fake their own deaths.
My psychological thriller, Dangle is about a protagonist who hears disembodied voices and meets people who have died. There is a psychotic fear in her mind that she battles to conquer.
There were some specific aspects that I kept in mind while making Dangle, into a psychological thriller. My protagonist was a 20s something, smart, urban, female professional; quite a familiar figure and commonly found in all Indian cities today. I felt this familiarity would help readers relate to her. Once they identified with the protagonist, they could easily become emotionally engrossed in her travails.
I believe the themes of a psychological thriller should also be familiar, such as marriage, family relationships, parenting, sibling rivalry. This makes the readers picture themselves in the story and imagine how they would act if they were thrown in a similar situation. Dangle is about relationships within the protagonist’s family and the way her responses to them change as she peels each layer from her own psyche. I was amazed by the number of readers who wrote back or told me that they had been subjected to similar trauma within the folds of their own family.
A protagonist will also seem real if they have some flaws. They could be an alcoholic or jealous spouse. My protagonist in Dangle harboured a deep secret which even eluded her but gave rise to her tortured dreams and repressed sexual aspirations.
The whole idea in the psychological thriller is to keep the reader hooked. One way of doing this is to have the protagonist make bad decisions. Something like, why is she going into the dark basement? The murderer is sure to be hiding there. In Dangle, the protagonist allows strange men to nearly seduce her despite being warned about the dangers of such behaviour by another character.
Another way to keep the reader on the edge of the seat is by having twists, twists and twists. Psychological thrillers are usually rated on the kind of twist they have. Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go was the best-selling debut thriller in UK in 2015. It had a twist right in the middle of the story that would make a reader throw the book up in the air and say, ‘Wow!’ I certainly did that. The brilliant twist turned the story on its head.
Dangle also has quite a twist two-thirds into the plot. Many readers told me that they went back to read the previous portions wondering if they had missed something because the twist was so unexpected.
Another way, that I tried to keep my reader hooked is by keeping them off balance, unsure of where the story is headed. Usually the end of a chapter is a nice place for the reader to stretch, look at their phone, check Twitter, get a snack. Maybe come back to the book later. Maybe not. So I ensured that the ending and beginning of each chapter was interesting. Possibly with a revelation, a discovery or even just a strange shift in tone that makes the reader question which character they should trust.
Finally, I ensured that the pace of the storytelling in Dangle did not flag. Even if there were descriptions or soliloquies, I kept them brief, brisk and relevant to the plot. I also paced the discovery of information. I would think about what the reader wants to know and how not to give it to them. But did I give out some answers on the way? Absolutely. Because a reader must get answers sometimes…after all they earned them by continuing to read. But I would then sow some more questions or bring some red herrings and distractions into the mix.
Tension in a psychological thriller is a must; so thick that you need an axe to cut through it. You need your reader to feel almost sick with tension, desperate to know what will happen. Since many readers told me that they read Dangle over a few hours, sometimes overnight, I think the tension throughout my telling was just right. By now, I hope your curiosity has been sufficiently whetted for you to pick up Dangle and give it a read.
This guest post is by author Sutapa Basu, who goes live on 2 May, Thursday 8 pm on Twitter.
Know more about Dangle:
Know more about Padmavati:
Know more about The Legend of Genghis Khan:
Here are some more details about Sutapa Basu: