17 May Reflections on ‘Surprising the Reader’ with Deepti Menon
The month-long Readomania Crime Writing Festival that’s on in full swing on Twitter is as informative and exciting as a virtual writing festival can be. Every Tuesday and Thursday, an author takes the viewers and readers through the various aspects of crime and thriller writing. Along with the discussions, there is also an ongoing 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.
This Tuesday, Deepti Menon, author of Shadow in the Mirror took the participants through the nuances of writing with the aim of keeping readers on edge and revealed secrets and strategies of introducing twists and turns.
Deepti started off her talk with the analogy of a roller coaster ride – and how the element of sudden twists and turns brings surprise and thrill – to explain to the viewers how to surprise a reader by evincing a reaction where they don’t know what’s coming next and they are left wondering.
“A thriller thrills through twists,” said Deepti, explaining further the definition of plot twist and how to make them work.
For a writer, the biggest question often is how exactly to know what twists to put in. In answer to this, Deepti provided a very valuable tip. ‘Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and come with every alternative they would think of. Now eliminate each of one those options, because what a reader expects is exactly what he should not get.’
The second step, she said, was brainstorming. The writer should make a list of the twists a reader would not expect and then use the one which you think would fit best with the plot. ‘Be one step ahead of the reader.’
It is also important to consider how well do the twists fit into the plot, and whether they adhere to the overall theme of the story. She cited examples of novels like Gone Girl and the writing of authors like Jeffrey Archer.
The highlight of this particular session was a direct quote from the veteran author Jeffrey Archer which he had said to Deepti in a personal interaction earlier. ‘He said to me, “As long as I have twists, I shall continue to write.” I couldn’t think of a more apt quote.’
The session saw many viewers asking their budding as well as established writers quiz Deepti on different aspects of writing a thriller.
Anupama Jain, author of When Padma Bani Paula, asked, ‘How important is the setting for a sneaking surprise?’
Deepti emphasized on the importance of the setting. She said, ‘it is absolutely vital as far as a sneaky twist goes. It sets the mood, creates images in the readers’ minds and helps to propel the action forward.’
While answering Aashisha’s query about maintaining the thrill quotient, Deepti said, ‘a thriller runs on thrills and twists. It is really vital to sustain this element, and a huge challenge as well. Some ways are to time your twists well, allow them to be refreshing, not clichéd, and work them into the plot harmoniously.’
Bhuvana Shankar, another wonderful writer, accomplished editor, and popular blogger, put two questions to Deepti. Her first query was about the greatest challenge Deepti has faced in the capacity of a novelist.
Deepti cited it to be the ability to sustain the standard of her writing and keep the interest of the readers going at the same time.
We viewers couldn’t agree more!
That is one of the biggest challenges all writers face.
Not surprisingly, Bhuvana’s second question was about another such important element that most writers struggle with – writing dialogue.
To this, Deepti’s reply was that ‘the dialogue in a thriller differs from that in a romance or a historical novel. Since it is more action- based, the characters speak in a terse and less verbose manner. However, this is not a set rule. I use a combination of dialogues, depending on the emotions involved.’
It was not just this live session in which Deepti shared valuable tips and advice.
In an interview published on Anupama Jain’s blog, Deepti spoke about how a writer should balance the element of suspense. ‘Too much of a good thing can lead to satiety, and hence, the twists and turns should be carefully monitored.’ She also spoke about the importance of a good cover.
Breaking down her own novel, Shadow in the Mirror, Deepti spoke about the major plot twists in the story and how it impacted the reading experience.
In her guest post on yet another brilliant writer and blogger Kasturi Patra’s blog, Deepti shares the techniques she used to keep the suspense alive.
In the post, she also lists the reasons why twists are so important. She further explained the technicalities of writing a thriller by drawing comparisons with writing romance. This particular portion of the guest post was particularly relevant for me because, as a wannabe romance author who debuted with a collection of thriller shorts, this piece of advice was particularly useful.
This particular session, along with the author interview as well as the guest post, was a veritable gold mine of writing advice.