“How To Surprise The Reader” Guest Post By Deepti Menon #ReadomaniaCWF2019

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(Image Courtesy: Readomania)

Popular publishing house, Readomania, is hosting a Crime Writing Festival which will go on for the month of May. Throughout the month, every Tuesday and Thursday, Readomania’s thriller authors will feature in live Twitter discussions at 8 PM 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 their digital imprint, ReadoShots. There will also be book giveaways to the best question asked twice every week. 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

The fourth session of the #ReadomaniaCrimeWritingFestival on @TwitterBooks  will be held by author Deepti Menon (@deepsmenon_7) on May 14th. Deepti is the bestselling author of the crime thriller novels Shadow in the Mirror (Readomania, 2016). Other than this, she has written a book of poems, Deeparadhana, and a lighthearted book on life as seen through the eyes of an Army wife called Arms and the Woman (Rupa Publishers, 2002).

Deepti Menon

(Image Courtesy: Readomania)

How many of you have been on a roller-coaster ride? One of those terrifying, never-ending rides where you start off with a sense of anticipation, butterflies materialising in your stomach as the monster begins to trundle. You clutch the sides, waiting for the speed to pick up and suddenly it does. Screams and shouts translate into a feeling of exhilaration as you whiz over the peak; the hurtling over comes as an anti-climax. Your stomach sinks and shrinks, leaving you holding your breath as the speed decreases and you are left to ponder over what just happened.

That is exactly what you feel when a novel that you are absorbed in prepares you for a twist that is round the corner. You, the reader, are running blind, aware that there is something lurking in the corner, but there is no way that you can stop. That, dear friends, is the crux of a thriller – be it political, psychological or plain crime.

There are certain unwritten rules that a writer follows when working on plot twists. First of all, he or she, gets into the shoes of the reader and imagines the story from that angle. The most obvious angles are done away with because that is how the mind of the reader would work.

In my psychological thriller ‘Shadow in the Mirror’, my characters were the ones who created the plot twists. They ran off my pen and my imagination and lived a life of their own, be it Kavita, Nita or Roma. In fact, when I wrote my book, there was one huge twist that I worked on, and it was this twist around which I wove my entire story.

‘Shadow in the Mirror’ had four twists – one colossal, the second tolerably big and the final two just discernible enough not to be missed. Of course, I would be doing myself and my book a disservice if I divulged any details, but let it suffice to say that the colossal twist was one which none of my readers saw coming. It was a shocker that took every one of them by surprise… that roller-coaster moment.

Some little techniques that I used, albeit sub-consciously, did work to keep the suspense alive. For example, I did strew around red herrings, some of which were meant to be noticed by the reader, others that stayed inconspicuous and revealed themselves at opportune moments. I also created sub-plots that would divert the minds of the readers from the main plot. There were subtle clues that brought the plots together, but they were just that – subtle. Above all, the twists had to be believable, and for that, much spade work had to be done, to engage the readers in different directions.

In a psychological thriller, much of the thrill comes from the workings of the human mind. What a wonderful maze lies within this area? How fascinating is the network that makes up this inner space? Hence, violence and gore, in themselves, are redundant. As the most famed horror specialist, Alfred Hitchcock, put it,

“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”

Why are twists so vital to a thriller?

  1. Twists keep the reader engrossed as their minds light up in an effort to fathom what lies ahead.
  2. They take the reader out of their ordinary lives into extraordinary situations, making them wonder how they themselves would react in such circumstances.
  3. A thriller needs to keep the readers from nodding off. A twist in time saves them from monotony.
  4. Some readers love to read between the lines. They grasp at every straw, scrabble for clues and try to stay a step ahead of the writer. They are the ‘Hercule Poirot readers’ who race to solve the mystery before the end of the book.
  5. My third twist came when the perpetrator in the story had already been unmasked. Hence, it is possible to thrill the reader, even after the main mystery has been solved. This keeps the readers off balance as they have no idea when the next twist is timed.
  6. My final twist came in the last line of my book. At the very end, the readers realise that there is more to come, maybe in a sequel.

This, I think, is the major difference between a romance and a thriller. The romance writer needs to keep the energy of the love story going, which, in itself, is a challenging task as the dynamics of characterisation come into play here. On the other hand, in a thriller, the love angle takes a back seat as the only seat that takes precedence here is the one that the reader sits at the edge of.

Imagine a world without the short stories of O. Henry, Edgar Allen Poe and Somerset Maugham, or the heart stopping tales of Jeffrey Archer? What about modern stories like ‘Gone Girl’ ‘The Girl on the Train’ and ‘The Woman in the Window’? Or all those glorious movies like ‘Psycho’, ‘Shutter Island’ (what a movie!), ‘Gupt’, ‘Kaun’, ‘Drishyam’ and the one that broke all records in Malayalam ‘Manichitrathazhu’ which won Shobhana the National Award for her outstanding acting.

And finally, in the words of the talented Nicole Kidman,

“Life has got all those twists and turns. You’ve got to hold on tight and off you go.”

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One thought on ““How To Surprise The Reader” Guest Post By Deepti Menon #ReadomaniaCWF2019

  1. Pingback: Reflections on ‘Surprising the Reader’ with Deepti Menon – Wandering Soul Writer

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