The Art of Writing a Complex Thriller: Guest Post by Tanushree Podder

The Crime Writing Festival that Readomania hosted on Twitter was a writer’s retreat in the virtual space. It provided a wealth of information on the craft of writing in the genre of crime and thrillers.

The past month has been fun and extremely informative. It was an honour for Wandering Soul to be one of the three preferred bloggers for this virtual writing festival. Thank you, Readomania! A huge shout out also to the fellow bloggers, Kasturi Patra and Anupama Jain, who supported  me and picked up additional work when I was unable to do my bit. (Do check out their blogs, people. Remember to follow them too.)

As part of the festival, many Readomania authors shared their knowledge and experiences of writing crime thrillers through LIVE sessions, author chats, interviews, and guests posts, covering a variety of aspects of the craft of writing, including using real life as inspiration, building strong characters, and how to introduce plot twists. In the concluding session of the month-long Readomania Crime Writing Festival, Tanushree Podder, author of Decoding the Feronia Files, will share her tried and tested strategies for writing engaging thriller plots.

Ahead of her live session, she takes over the blog to talk about the art of writing thriller plots.

By definition, thrillers are books that create excitement, a sense of suspense, followed by surprise, anticipation and anxiety.

According to James Patterson, there are all kinds of thrillers. The legal thriller, spy thriller, action-adventure thriller, medical thriller, police thriller, romantic thriller, historical thriller, political thriller, religious thriller, high-tech thriller, military thriller. The list goes on and on, with new variations constantly being invented. In fact, this openness to expansion is one of the genre’s most enduring characteristics. But what gives the variety of thrillers a common ground is the intensity of emotions they create, particularly those of apprehension and exhilaration, of excitement and breathlessness, all designed to generate that all-important thrill. By definition, if a thriller doesn’t thrill, it’s not doing its job.

To the above list, I would like to add ‘Cli-Fi’ thriller, to which belongs our book Decoding the Feronia Files. Like Sci Fi, Cli Fi is an interesting genre that goes beyond the boundaries of the known and experiments with the unknown. It is still in the nascent stages, but we are likely to see more and more of it in the near future.

Decoding the Feronia Files.jpg

Decoding the Feronia Files is a fast paced page turner with a complex plot. It races through various countries, carried forward by various characters from the intelligence agencies and the villains. The common thread in all this is the manipulation of weather.

Writing a complex plot with multiple settings and characters is a difficult process that calls for the skillful handling of the subject. It is very easy to lose track of the events or end up confusing the reader and oneself. It’s rather like the weaving of a beautiful carpet with an intricate pattern. Have you have seen a master craftsman working on his loom? Although we could find ourselves puzzled at the multitude of threads scattered around him, he is adept at handling all of them to create a rich, multi-hued pattern on the loom.

A writer has to work in a similar manner. He has a blueprint of the plot in his mind and uses the various characters to create that plot. The plot is like the finished piece of fabric, the threads are the sub plots. Weaving in the sub plots is where the author skills lie. The warp and weft of these tiny threads have to be woven in unison to create a seamless product. Like the master craftsman, he has to know how to interlace them together to create the final plot. This is no easy feat, especially when it comes to a thriller.

A thriller requires certain essentials like a breath-taking pace, believable characters, strong protagonist, perfect setting and an element of suspense and excitement. The story-line goes through a convoluting narrow path with umpteen twists and turns, building up tension and excitement in the reader. This is done through multiple layers and sub plots. The reader has to be driven to a point where he begins to feel anxious about the aftermath, with each chapter building up the anxiety in him. He begins to look forward to a happy resolution but can never be sure about it.

Writing a thriller essentially involves the successful seeding, nurturing and intensifying a sense of imminent disaster, as the plot moves from initial episode to the finale.

Coming back to ‘Decoding the Feronia Files’ – how did we manage to handle the complex plot? The starting point was the topic. Since we had decided to write on the climate changes occurring around the world, the path was known. We, now, had the responsibility of turning the topic into an interesting story without making it tedious since a book on climate change can be quite a dry reading for the average reader. To make it interesting, we decided to turn it into a thriller, which would intrigue and interest the readers. Once that decision had been taken, the next thing was to outline the main plot with details about the critical twists that would carry it forward.

It was at this point that the story took over, and we found it growing into a complex fabric of multiple sub plots and intriguing characters. Next on the agenda was to create a rough sequence of the events and connecting them together. Chapterisation of the plot was where the sequence was detailed. Thereafter, we outlined the setting, players, character developments, and plot progress in each chapter.

What made it difficult was the timeline that would carry the story forward. A book with many settings, characters and events that are taking place almost simultaneously requires very skillful handling so that the reader doesn’t lose track of the plot. The only way to do is to create a grid and follow it diligently. All this has to be done without allowing the pace to slacken.

It would have been impossible to write Decoding the Feronia Files without working on a grid because the buildup of anxiety and excitement comes through multiple events, in which the interactions between the characters plays a pivotal role. Also, the unfolding of the story had to take place in a very gradual and suspenseful manner.

To know more about the plot, pick up a copy of the book.

TanushreeAbout Tanushree Podder – 

Tanushree: After eight years in the corporate sector, Tanushree quit the rat race to wield her pen and found her calling. A well-known travel writer and novelist, she is passionate about travelling and writing. She has written six successful novels, a dozen best-selling nonfiction titles and over 500 travel tales. Her last book was A Closetful of Skeletons.

  • Rashmi Menon
    Posted at 10:32h, 28 May Reply

    A Cli-fi thriller! Wow, that is a totally new genre for me. I may have read some books that fit the genre’s definition, but never thought that is what it is. I am looking forward to reading Decoding the Feronia Files. The book cover and the description I read seems to be quite interesting. I love me a page turner and this one seems to fit the bill!

    • Wandering Soul
      Posted at 23:48h, 30 May Reply

      You’ll love it, I am sure. And it even offers a very believable explanation to some freak climatic anomalies. Let me not give away any spoilers. Do share what you think of the book 🙂

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